Groups End Hunt for Info on ICE Workplace Raids

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Four legal organizations based in the San Francisco Bay Area have settled a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with the Department of Homeland Security regarding immigration raids.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler dismissed the lawsuit after the federal government agreed to pay the $360,000 in court fees. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and multiple phone calls to the plaintiff organizations and their lawyer were not returned.

The case dates back to 2015, when Dolores Street Community Services, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of The San Francisco Bay Area, The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, the National Employment Law Project and the National Immigration Law Center sued the Department of Homeland Security seeking documents about worksite raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“ICE worksite enforcement audits have caused tens of thousands of workers to lose their jobs, their healthcare, and their homes,” the plaintiffs said in the initial complaint.

They said they had the right to review on what basis ICE chose and how and when to implement its worksite raids and were repeatedly thwarted in their requests.

The organizations first requested documents in April 2012, and waited two years for a response. In that instance, only the agency’s inspector general complied with the request.

ICE said it conducted raids to bring enforcement action against unscrupulous employers looking to exploit undocumented workers, but the legal groups said the opposite was true.

Instead, the agency punished the undocumented workers with incarceration, deportation and other punitive measures, while letting employers continue to exploit workers with impunity, the suit said.

Furthermore, ICE was used to punish employees who attempted to unionize, according to the complaint.

It is unclear at this point whether the plaintiffs have obtained the documents they requested and whether those documents have bolstered the claims made in their complaint.

Those claims also include allegations that silent raids conducted by ICE resulted in Berkeley Pacific Steel firing more than 200 workers. The plaintiffs said the agency conducts audits that would show the impact of those raids on the Bay Area workforce and whether it was workers or companies getting punished.

“The audits have highlighted the need for greater transparency from the federal government with respect to its worksite enforcement actions,” the complaint said.

Since President Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House and his continued espousal of anti-immigrant policies, California has taken steps to constrain the ability of federal immigration agents to conduct worksite raids.

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that increases workplace protections for undocumented immigrants.

The bill, written by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, prohibits employers from allowing federal immigration agents on their property without a warrant. It further requires employers to notify their employees within 72 hours of any inspections of employee records carried out by federal immigration agents.

 

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