baby timberland ICE crackdowns haunt undocumented workers in Northern California
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents descended on dozens of Northern California businesses, labor leaders and immigration activists worry one of the largest rounds of workplace audits in years will cast even deeper fears across immigrant communities, pushing them further into the shadows.
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Some activists say undocumented immigrants have become hesitant to show up to work, and others have stopped showing up altogether. Nervous employers have been reaching out to attorneys and immigrant advocates to ask about their rights.
“Taking away these people’s humanity is a commonly used tactic by ICE and unfortunately, it’s very effective,” said Maria Marroqun, executive director of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, which connects laborers with local contractors and employers.”It’s a strategy to manipulate people and their emotions. workers.
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And several labor leaders, immigration attorneys and politicians said it was still a mystery to them. Armando Elenes, a United Farmworkers vice president, said a Central Valley citrus packing company received a notice. Others declined to reveal the names of targeted businesses, citing privacy issues and stressing ICE’s action this week were merely audits not proof that employers and their workers were breaking the law.
But the so called I 9 audits raised the volume ofa growing feud between the Trump Administration and California, the country’s first “sanctuary state,” over immigration enforcement. And the agency’s numbers show that between October 2016 and September 2017 including the first eight months of the Trump administration ICE conducted 1,360 I 9 audits across the country. That’s about 26 a week. This week, in Northern California alone, agents conducted almost three times that number.
The major uptick comes weeks after Homan told Fox News that the agency will significantly increase enforcement across California and warned the Golden State to “hold on tight.”
“It seems like they’re retaliatory tactics and also that they are scare mongering. It’s repressive,” said Ruth Silver Taube, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law who studies employment law. “It’s pretty draconian,” she said.
However, such workplace audits have plummeted since President Barack Obama’s first term, when his administration was under attack from immigrant rights groups for its hardline on deportations. Under Obama, I 9 workplace audits peaked in the 2013 fiscal year at more than 3,100 audits before dropping by more than half in the following years.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents the San Jose area, said she thinks Homan “is intending to incite fear” with the audits.
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“I don’t think that makes for healthy communities and I really think Homan is out of control,” she said. “The Trump administration has managed to politicize this to an extraordinary degree.”
Lofgren said she has asked ICE for more information but the agency has declined to say anything more. She has not heard from individual businesses.
When they serve the audits, agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit deliver the I 9 inspection notifications to a manager at the business.
If an employer isn’t in compliance for technical reasons, ICE agents will work with them to fix any errors, Schwab said. But employers who aren’t in compliance for other reasons may face criminal charges and fines and their workers may be arrested, he said.
“These (audits) are clearly attacking our communities,” saidManuel De Paz, community development and education program director at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, a non profit group in Berkeley.
Although he’s not sure if deportations have necessarily increased with the Trump administration, the fear has, De Paz said.