Despite a shift by Immigration and Customs Enforcement away from indiscriminate worksite raids nationwide, and despite the fact that Sheriff Joe Arpaio continues to thumb his nose at the feds in various ways -- taping conversations between ICE and MCSO employees, refusing to cooperate with a Justice Department investigation, etc. -- ICE approved of the use of the sheriff's 287(g) authority in the MCSO's raid today at Royal Paper Converting Company in South Phoenix.
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Matthew Chandler issued the following statement to me, indicating that ICE greenlighted the arrests of "a number of" individuals at Royal Paper. According to an MCSO press release, 102 persons were targeted in the raid this morning. Forty-four were arrested, with 35 being booked into jail on suspicion of I.D. theft, and the rest being turned over to ICE for processing.
"During the course of a criminal investigation today involving identity theft and fraud," Chandler said in an e-mailed statement, "Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies requested authorization from ICE to use their 287(g) authority to arrest a number of undocumented individuals identified during the investigation. As the 287(g) memorandum of agreement allows the use of federal authority to arrest undocumented individuals during the course of a criminal investigation, ICE authorized the arrests, will take custody of the aliens from MCSO and will make custody determinations based on each alien's individual situation."
I called Chandler and asked if this meant that DHS or ICE had approved of this raid beforehand. He could not answer that question, and said he would get back to me with an answer. Pressed as to why DHS/ICE was allowing Arpaio to use his federal 287(g) authority in this raid, when ICE itself was pulling back on performing similar such worksite raids, Chandler protested that the Royal Paper raid was different.
"Our worksite enforcement protocol is on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers to circumvent the law," Chandler stated. "You're referring to a criminal case in this particular case right now."
Chandler said that ICE was still performing worksite raids as part of criminal investigations into employers, but he offered no recent examples of this.
Back in February, after an ICE raid on a Bellingham, Washington business that netted 28 persons suspected of being undocumented, DHS honcho Napolitano told Congress she wanted to "get to the bottom of this" and announced a review of worksite enforcement raids. DHS later announced a change in policy, focusing on employers instead of rounding up employees, as was common during the Bush administration.
Compare this MCSO Royal Paper raid today to the kid-glove approach ICE applied to the American Apparel clothing chain. In July, the company announced that it had been informed by ICE that approximately one-third of its employees "did not appear to be authorized to work in the United States."
There were no raids. American Apparel said they were cooperating with ICE, and that those employees who could not prove their right to work in the U.S. would be let go.
Other companies nationwide have been the subject of so-called "desktop raids" by the IRS, after IRS audits have shown workers to be using invalid or fraudulent Social Security numbers. One such raid took place in Vernon, California recently. More than 200 workers lost their jobs as a result.
Losing your job is bad enough, but being detained, and possibly prosecuted and/or being held for deportation is worse, obviously. Just take a look at the crying workers captured by Fox 10 News in the video embedded above. For every 44 of those not going home today, there is a family, and likely children, who will be without their mothers and/or fathers.
I asked local civil rights leader Sal Reza about the apparent difference in the way ICE is dealing with employers and employees nationally, and locally through Arpaio's 287(g) authority.
"Either the feds are being hypocritical or they've lost control of 287(g)." said Reza. "Either Napolitano has no authority, or she's actually encouraging this, one of the two. Either way, it looks bad."
The way I read it, she's encouraging this confusion and chaos. Why do workers in Los Angeles or Vernon, California merely lose their jobs, while those here in Maricopa County are crushed beneath the heavy-handed tactics of the MCSO?
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The law should be uniformly administered. Employees suspected of being undocumented should be treated with the same humanity and respect in Arizona as they are in California, or elsewhere, where there is no Sheriff Joe.
Currently, this is not the case. As a result, the innocent children waiting at home for their parents suffer.
In his press release today, Arpaio seemed aware of the contradiction between DHS policy concerning worksite raids and his own way of dealing with things. And he needled the feds on the issue.
"President Obama and DHS Director Napolitano have a new policy which concentrates on going after employers who hire illegal aliens - not the employees who work here illegally," Arpaio observed in the statement. "I don't agree with their thinking. I will continue to enforce all federal and state illegal immigration laws."