July 5 ,2009
There was good news and bad news this week for the undocumented. As part of a new official strategy, massive raids at workplaces will no longer occur. That’s the good news. The bad part is that workers will lose their jobs anyway.
President Obama condemned the past approach to immigration control based on persecuting undocumented workers and giving employers who hire them a free ride. In some cases, businesses aren’t able to hire legal workers to fulfill all of their operational needs; in other cases, they prefer to take advantage of hiring the undocumented to exploit them and pay low wages. For some time, the argument has been made that it is unfair to detain and deport workers and not to take action against those who employ them. Now this has changed.
Last Wednesday, 650 businesses across the country were notified that they might have undocumented workers among their employees and that they must review their personnel and dismiss those without work permits under penalty of fines or charges.
This action comes at a moment in which Washington is debating the possibility of immigration reform this year. The new policy demonstrates the administration’s commitment to security and thereby undercuts the charge that it is only interested in legalization. Notification to employers provides political cover while, at the same time, complies with the law.
We believe the new approach would have been more appropriate after an immigration reform that would first have allowed workers to regularize their status and only then, put pressure on employers. We are also concerned about the effect these actions will have on the Latino community and the undocumented, who are already weary from the aggressive raids and now must face yet another threat against their source of work. This frustration can lead to bad choices such as boycotting the census, which reflects a justified outrage against the current situation but, at the same time, puts in place measures that will end up hurting the very community they hope to help.
The new immigration strategy is certainly better and more just than terrorizing workers with aggressive raids. And, it is embedded within a political strategy toward immigration reform. At the same time, this is of little consolation to those who lose their jobs and to the families that will suffer.