Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memo Tuesday ordering immigration and border agents to stop raids and arrests at workplaces of suspected illegal aliens.
“The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country’s unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers,” Mayorkas said in the three-page memo (pdf). “These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations.”
The memo is directed at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Troy, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It calls the agencies to shift their focus toward “unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers.”
Such employers are paying substandard wages, imposing unsafe working conditions, and facilitating human trafficking and child exploitation, Mayorkas wrote. The substandard wages create an unfair labor market and drive down costs unfairly, harming people seeking a job and disadvantaging other law-abiding employers, he added.
Mayorkas is directing a review of current immigration enforcement policies, which he said should “facilitate the important work of the Department of Labor and other government agencies to enforce wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights, and other laws and standards.”
In particular, the policies should “[r]educe the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers and their agents” and “[i]ncrease the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigations.”
The policies should also “[b]roaden and deepen mechanisms” for different departments to coordinate together, including between the DHS, the Justice Department, the Labor Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and state labor agencies, according to the memo.
Mayorkas said that revised or new immigration policies should include plans to offer protections—including from deportation—to illegal aliens who “[cooperate] with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of unscrupulous employers.”
The three agencies have 60 days from the memo to submit their “plans and recommendations” in response to Mayorkas’s directives.
The new memo comes just two weeks after Mayorkas issued a separate memo laying out guidelines advising that being in the country illegally is not by itself enough reason to arrest somebody, and that only the illegal aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety, or border security should be targeted.
The United States is experiencing record-setting levels of illegal immigration. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were 208,887 apprehensions related to border crossings in August.
Since taking office, Biden reversed a number of policies from the Trump administration over the border and immigration, including pausing and ultimately suspending border wall construction; stopping President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” order for arrivals before Jan. 1; and pulling back on using Title 42 emergency powers amid the COVID-19 pandemic by exempting illegal immigrant children and many family units from being expelled under the policy.