Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday directed immigration agencies to cease mass raids on workplaces where undocumented immigrants are employed. "Under the previous administration, these resource-intensive operations resulted in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers and were used as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers' assertion of labor laws," the Department of Homeland Security said in a news release. Instead, DHS will focus its enforcement efforts on the "unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers."
Under the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted several high-profile immigration raids, arresting 146 workers at an Ohio meat packing plant in 2018 and about 680 people in a 2019 operation at food processing plants in Mississippi. Former President Donald Trump touted these raids "as a centerpiece of his crackdown on undocumented immigration," NPR News reports.
"The deployment of mass worksite operations," Mayorkas said in a memorandum Tuesday, "was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country's unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers." His memorandum also "calls for broader and deeper mechanisms for coordination with interagency partners to enforce worker protections," DHS said, notably the Labor Department, which Mayorkas said has requested assistance in convincing undocumented workers to aid in workplace exploitation investigations.
"We will not tolerate unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities, or impose unsafe working conditions," Mayorkas said in a statement. "Employers engaged in illegal acts compel the focus of our enforcement resources. By adopting policies that focus on the most unscrupulous employers, we will protect workers as well as legitimate American businesses." Immigration advocacy groups welcomed DHS's policy shift but called on Congress to enact permanent reform.