Biden Administration Ending Mass Immigration Raids of Worksites

Author: Robert S. Teachout, Brightmine Legal Editor

October 14, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is removing mass raids on worksites from its list of ways to enforce US immigration law. In a memo this week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed the agencies charged with enforcing the law - including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - to end mass worksite operations that often result in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers.

Instead, federal immigration agencies are instructed to "take actions to promote a fair labor market by supporting more effective enforcement of wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights, and other employment laws and standards."

"The Department of Homeland Security has a critical role to ensure our Nation's workplaces comply with our laws," said Mayorkas. "We will not tolerate unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities, or impose unsafe working conditions. Employers engaged in illegal acts compel the focus of our enforcement resources. By adopting policies that focus on the most unscrupulous employers, we will protect workers, as well as legitimate American businesses."

The memo further directs ICE, CBP and USCIS to develop and update policies to enhance the DHS's impact in supporting the enforcement of employment and labor standards. Agencies are asked to also consider whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion for "workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, workplace exploitation" on a case-by-case basis.

Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh concurred with the DHS change saying in a tweet, "When employers take advantage of immigrant workers, the government must be there to defend workers' rights." He further stated that the DOL would support and work with DHS to ensure everyone can work free from exploitation and retaliation.

The directive marks a sharp change from the Trump administration's policy, which saw raids that targeted several Mississippi poultry plants, in what was called the largest statewide enforcement action in the nation's history.