US shifting focus of immigration enforcement from raids to employers

[JURIST] US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] said Wednesday that the US government will begin to enforce immigration policy more strictly by targeting employers directly [transcript], rather than through continued use of controversial workplace raids. While attending a roundtable discussion [materials] at the Aspen Institute [organization website], a public policy think tank, Napolitano added that she was asking Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] for assistance with prosecutions. Napolitano said:

There has been a lot of controversy about so-called work-site raids, whether those were effective, whether they were separating families, whether they were placing fear into people and the like. And we really have looked at that issue and said, look, we need to do work site enforcement. You can't just do immigration enforcement at the border.

You have to have interior enforcement to go along with it, and the primary driver of illegal immigration is the labor market, so you have to go after the pull that that market is creating. That means you have to go after employers who are hiring illegal labor. But we really weren't going after employers and we weren't really focused on the time and effort it takes to develop a case, to show that a particular employer was intentionally hiring illegal labor and the law requires us to be able to prove that knowing is knowledge and intent. ...

I work with the U.S. Attorney's offices to bring those cases. I've talked a lot with Eric Holder, the AG, about opening the door for the U.S. Attorneys' offices for those cases; and so that is kind of, as we turn this big boat with different emphases, that is one emphasis that we do have.
Napolitano's suggestion is in line withthe current administration's proposed overhaul [release] of US immigration policy. Also on Wednesday, Holder vacated [order, PDF; JURIST report] an order [text, PDF] by former attorney general Michael Mukasey [JURIST news archive] that had denied those facing deportation the right to challenge immigration decisions based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. In February, Napolitano called for a review [JURIST report] of workplace raids conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] officers. ICE has arrested [JURIST report] many non-criminal illegal immigrants in the past year, many of whom were imprisoned [JURIST report]. In April 2008, Seton Hall Law School's Center for Social Justice filed a lawsuit [Star-Ledger report] claiming that warrantless immigration raids violate the US Constitution.

 

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