SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs, their healthcare and their homes to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's opaque worksite "silent raids," four legal groups claim in Federal Court.
The legal nonprofits and a community group sued the Department of Homeland Security and ICE for information about worksite raids in a Feb. 20 FOIA complaint.
The organizations say they requested records on ICE worksite raids in April 2012, then waited nearly two years to get the records, which were incomplete and heavily redacted.
The immigration service claims that it raids workplaces to "punish unscrupulous employers and protect vulnerable workers," but the organizations say the opposite is true, and that in some instances corrupt employers have worked with ICE to punish workers who try to unionize.
They claim the agency's audits, or "silent raids," have led to mass firings - for example, in February 2012, more than 200 workers were fired from Berkeley's Pacific Steel, one of the city's largest employers.
"The audits have highlighted the need for greater transparency from the federal government with respect to its worksite enforcement actions," the complaint states.
The organizations claim that the ICE has not made public any of its regulations on worksite raids and has published only minimal statistical information about them.
ICE has not explained the procedures that govern an audit, nor how many worksites have been targeted, nor "whether the program is effectively meeting its purported goals of reducing the overall demand for unlawful employment, while at the same time protecting employees from exploitation, mistreatment, and trafficking," the complaint states.
ICE claims that the records it has withheld are personnel and medical files or were compiled for law enforcement purposes, and so are exempt from FOIA.
The plaintiffs deny it.
They seek declaratory relief and a private review of the withheld records.
Their lead counsel is Paul Johnson, with King & Spalding in San Francisco.
The plaintiffs are 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.
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