The administration will now focus on targeting employers who employ undocumented workers in exploitative conditions.
In a newly released memo, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the Biden administration is putting an end to mass worksite immigration raids. Instead, the administration will now focus on identifying employers who exploit undocumented workers. The move is another departure from Trump-era immigration policies; under former President Donald Trump, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted its largest single-state immigration crackdown. This took place in Mississippi, where the agency launched a string of raids at poultry processing plants in 2019. It is unclear how the new policy towards employers will affect undocumented workers and whether formerly detained undocumented workers will receive any form of reparation, CNN reports.
"The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country's unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers," Mayorkas asserts in his memo. "These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations." The memo claims future practices and policies will deliver "more severe consequence" to employers to reduce the demand for illegal employment; encourage workers to report violations; and widen inter-agency coordination.
Mass workplace raids have been a contentious issue with regard to the immigration debate for years now. This is because Republicans tend to favor the practice as a means of "doubling down" on employers and undocumented workers who are "breaking the law." Meanwhile, Democrats argue that workers, rather than employers, bear the brunt of such crackdowns. In this light, it makes sense that Mayorkas would focus on "exploitative employers" in his memo rather than on undocumented workers. He shares, "We will not tolerate unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities, or impose unsafe working conditions. Employers engaged in illegal acts compel the focus of our enforcement resources." Nonetheless, it is unclear what financial consequences such workers would have to face if employers are now encouraged to hire strictly over the table.
In addition to this, formerly arrested undocumented workers will see no benefit from the newly-announced practice. A year after the string of raids took place in Mississippi, for instance, several undocumented workers were still out of employment and being tracked by immigration officials. A 42-year-old undocumented worker from Guatemala, for example, was mandated to wear a government-issued GPS monitor on his ankle, CNN reports. His employers were not charged following the raids. He said in an interview with the news outlet, "They gave us the opportunity to work. I am grateful... Even if it's work people from this country don't want. It's hard to judge the plant executives." Many more were deported or, in some cases, self-deported.
ICE roundups have in the past separated hundreds of children from their parents, with little reparation for the economic growth they have made possible in the United States through their labor. Furthermore, CBS News reports that families separated at the border under President Trump are yet to be reunified. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has continued the practice of family separation Thousands of unaccompanied minors have arrived in the US in the past few months, and the Biden administration has temporarily housed them in some of the same overflow "kids-in-cages" facilities made infamous under Trump, Politico reports. Evidently, the US needs to reimagine and completely overhaul its immigration policy.