Homeland Security to review Bellingham ICE raid

US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has called for a review of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workplace immigration raid that occurred in Bellingham, WA, on Feb. 24. In a hearing one day later, Napolitano told lawmakers that she was not made aware of the raid which resulted in the arrest of 28 Mexicans and Central Americans. The ICE raid on the Yamato Engine Specialists plant was the first since President Barack Obama took office, and sparked protests by local immigrants’ rights groups. Most of those arrested are being detained at a federal facility in Tacoma and face deportation.

Napolitano said:

In my view, we have to do workplace enforcement [and] it needs to be focused on employers who intentionally and knowingly exploit the illegal labor market. That [behavior] has impacts on American workers, it has an impact on wage levels, [and it] often has undue impact on the illegal workers themselves. Our ICE efforts should be focused on those sorts of things.

Napolitano issued a directive in January calling for the review and assessment of ICE fugitive operation teams in response to a number of workplace raids similar to that in Bellingham.

Earlier this month, ICE tactics under the Bush administration were criticized for being overly-aggressive and ineffective. ICE has arrested many non-criminal illegal immigrants in the past year, many of whom were imprisoned. In April, Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice filed a lawsuit claiming that warrantless immigration raids violate the US Constitution. (Jurist, AP, Feb. 26; KPLU, Seattle, Feb. 25)

See our last post on the politics of immigration.

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