Monday, June 17, 2024

More Immigration Scrutiny for Employers

Although it is not clear how the Obama administration will handle immigration reform, the Department of Homeland Security is issuing new guidelines for field agents on how to deal with illegal immigrants in the workplace.

A recent incident in the state of Washington could perhaps provide some clues about how it will be handled in the future. On February 24, armed immigration agents raided Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham, and 28 workers who were illegal immigrants were led away in handcuffs.

When Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano learned of the raid, she ordered an immediate review. Today, one month later, 27 of the 28 workers have been released. In fact, one of them–Luis Ramos–says he can’t get over how nice the immigration agents have become.

“They treat us wonderfully,” Ramos says. “They even say, ‘do you want a soda from the machine?'”

The government is offering them temporary work permits, and immigration agents are even giving the detained immigrants free rides to Seattle to file the paperwork.

Criticism from the other side of the immigration has not taken long to arrive.

William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration said, “Not only is this immigration non-enforcement that’s going on, he is providing a policy amnesty for illegal aliens that is not supported by the American public and that has not been passed by Congress.”

Last Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials returned to Yamato Engine Specialists in search of the company’s computer files.

Current law makes it relatively easy for managers to claim they didn’t know their employees were illegal, so investigators may start looking for other kinds of offenses to charge them with.

Edgar Rebollar, one of the released workers, says the agents have been questioning him about all aspects of their experience at Yamato.

“They asked us if there was racism,” he says, “or if they paid some people more than others.” Questions like that underscore the fact that the government might be going beyond immigration violations and try to prosecute Yamato under labor laws.

Rebollar says he thinks Yamato treated him well, but he and his colleagues say they’ll provide the government with evidence, if necessary.

In fact, it may be in his favor to cooperate. Their work permits are valid only as long as there is a case against Yamato. Once they’re no longer useful to investigators, they again will face deportation.