AILA Commends Congressional Hearing on Devastating Impact of Workforce Raids

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) expresses appreciation and sincere thanks to the leadership shown by the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee for holding a critical hearing on the exponential impact of proliferating immigration raids. The hearing helped shine a long overdue light on the harsh consequences these raids visit upon American children, families, and communities.

Coming on the heels of what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bills as the single biggest worksite raid in U.S. history, AILA urges Congress to take this opportunity to step back and take careful stock of where the agency is headed and the related implications for this country. DHS undoubtedly believes, as its spokespeople state repeatedly, that it is merely enforcing the laws that Congress has passed. AILA certainly concurs that the only long-term solution to the complex problems plaguing our immigration system is for Congress to reform the immigration laws. That does not mean, however, that until Congress acts we will watch silently while DHS tears apart American communities in its zealous enforcement of irrational and outdated laws.

The "we are just enforcing the law" refrain rings hollow in the streets of towns that have suffered the fallout from these raids. Today's hearing and a mountain of recent media reports about appalling detention conditions and basic violations of due process bring into sharp relief the devastation these enforcement activities are having on children, families, and communities across the country. This is not hyperbole. Just consider the statements by local officials reported last week in the wake of the Iowa raids:

  • Postville Mayor Bob Penrod said that the raids "literally blew our town away."
  • Postville Community Schools Superintendent, David Strudthoff, said the sudden jailing of more than 10 percent of the town's population "is like a natural disaster -- only this one is manmade."

We must not become anesthetized to the psychological impact of these raids on U.S. family members (including the millions of citizen children and spouses of undocumented workers), to the disastrous economic toll on small communities, or to the trampling of basic principles of human decency. We can and must do better. The intrinsic genius of this country is its ability to self-correct when it strays from its founding principles of basic fairness and freedom from government heavy-handedness.

AILA calls upon the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to cease large-scale operations that have become the hallmark of the agency's immigration enforcement efforts since Congress failed to enact immigration reform. The structure and capacity for proper oversight of large-scale enforcement operations simply do not exist. Despite bona fide efforts by the government to account for some of the many humanitarian concerns that have been highlighted, these initiatives have nonetheless led to widespread violations of basic rights. These raids represent a disturbing trend of intolerance and abuse that undermines the nation's constitutional commitment to due process and shows little application of valid prosecutorial discretion principles. What is more, no one, not even Secretary Chertoff himself, believes that these efforts represent a solution to our immigration crisis.

So while we urge Congress to heed the nation's call to reform our immigration system and restore the rule of law, we also urge DHS to rethink its enforcement strategies and reverse course on these large-scale raid operations that disserve the best interests of our nation's children, families, and communities.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members. For more information call George Tzamaras at 202-507-7649 or Annie Wilson at 202-507-7653.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 08052063.