AILA Objects to the Enforcement Methods and Tactics Used in Recent Workplace Raids

March 27, 2007

CONTACT: George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON D.C.-The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) strongly objects to the ill-advised and inhumane enforcement methods and tactics that continue to be employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in workplace raids. We expect DHS to use its enforcement resources to end human trafficking and smuggling and to prosecute widespread criminal enterprises that violate our nation's immigration laws. But any enforcement action must be carried out with respect for due process and human rights. Recent raids have been conducted without providing for the care of children or access to counsel. Communities and family members have not been provided with timely information about the location of those arrested and shipped thousands of miles away to detention warehouses in remote areas. At a time when employers and employees who want to do the right thing and abide by the law but are unable to do so due to the complete absence of legal means for immigrant workers to seek and gain employment in the United States, AILA questions whether workplace raids are an effective immigration enforcement tactic at all.

In any enforcement action, our government must:

  • Release those charged on their own recognizance or reasonable bond, absent a showing of criminal conduct or previous final removal order;
  • Implement electronic monitoring in lieu of detention for anyone deemed a flight risk who has responsibilities for the care of dependent family members;
  • Make immediate provision for the care of minor children of any person detained;
  • Detain any person within the jurisdiction within which he or she is arrested for at least the first 7 days, so that the person may consult with, and obtain, counsel;
  • Provide accurate and timely lists of pro bono attorneys and nonprofit agencies that may assist detainees in securing legal representation;
  • Notify counsel and family members within 24 hours of transferring any detainee;
  • Ensure that all immigration detainees are afforded the medical care, visitation rights, legal materials, and functioning telephones mandated under the Department of Justice immigration detention guidelines;
  • Make sure that immigration detainees are not held in facilities where they are intermingled with individuals facing criminal prosecution.

"The recent workplace raids are a prime example of a broken immigration system, completely disconnected from the economic reality of today's labor needs and marketplace," said Carlina Tapia-Ruano, President of AILA. "The raids underscore the urgency of the need for comprehensive immigration reform NOW," she added. "The workers seized during the most recent raid in New Bedford are some of the very workers on whom employers and communities rely for their needed skills and their willingness to fill a variety of U.S. jobs." Tapia-Ruano pointed out that of the 361 men and women seized in New Bedford, most are young and middle-aged Latino women who had not harmed anyone. "Some were detained, some were flown to a Texas detention center, forced to leave behind children in Massachusetts-many of whom are U.S. citizens and are completely innocent in this," said Tapia-Ruano. "None of them had any reason to expect that DHS would decide to make an example out of them."

As the frequency of immigration raids has intensified in recent months, AILA is deeply concerned with the tone and aggressive nature of these actions and is troubled with DHS officials' disregard for due process and humanitarian considerations. As a result of these overzealous raids, entire communities are afraid to leave their homes and terrified to send their children to school. Those seized and detained by DHS officials are summarily taken away from their homes-without their children, without their documents or possessions-and transferred to distant locations where there are few attorneys who can help them. They often cannot contact family and are effectively denied access to counsel, while their deportation from the United States is arranged without regard to whether they may have a basis to remain.

AILA asserts that the status quo isn't working and that raids and round-ups do not begin to solve the immigration issue. "The truth is, America needs 21st century solutions to its immigration problems," stated Tapia-Ruano. "America needs an immigration system that can respond to the economic realities of today-an immigration policy that simultaneously creates legal avenues for people to enter the U.S.; allows people already here to earn the opportunity to adjust their status; addresses the multi-year backlogs in family- and employment-based immigration; and creates and implements a smart border security and enforcement regime that respects core principles of due process."

The time is ripe for Congress and the Administration to step up and enact real reform legislation that benefits the economy by providing a legal path to match willing employees with willing workers, and that benefits national security by allowing law enforcement to go after real criminals.

America is a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. AILA strongly supports the enforcement of reasonable and just laws. Smart and effective enforcement is an essential part of comprehensive reform. But workplace raids that are carried out without regard for the human consequences, and without respect for fundamental constitutional protections and principles, have no place in our democracy.

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 contact George Tzamaras at 202-216-2410 or Brooke Hewson at 202-216-2435.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 07032761.