L.A. mayor chides ICE for workplace immigration raids
Last year, Chertoff warned in an interview with The Times that a crackdown on employers would cause "unhappy consequences for the economy." But employers who knowingly hire illegal workers are breaking the law, he said.
Anti-illegal immigrant advocates praised ICE's actions in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
"Cutting off the magnet of jobs has to be the No. 1 priority if you want to get a handle on illegal immigration," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports stricter border controls.
Years of lax enforcement is what led to so many illegal workers in Southern California in the first place, Mehlman said. ICE should keep the pressure on undocumented workers and should focus even more attention on their employers, he said.
In Los Angeles, he said, "you take away 100 illegal aliens from these guys and they could have 100 more before lunch. But you take the head of personnel, that's another matter."
Immigrant rights proponents said raids at businesses break up families, make workers more vulnerable and give unscrupulous employers a competitive advantage. Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the situation only underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
"All of the Los Angeles economy [is paying] for the incompetence of our congressional representatives," she said. "They haven't done what they are supposed to do."
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary L. Toebben agreed on the need for reform legislation.
Toebben also sent a letter to Chertoff saying that workplace raids are "devastating" to businesses that are trying to follow the law.
Even when employers ask for proof that new employees are eligible to work in the U.S., there is no guarantee that the documents are valid, he said. Businesses can use the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify system to match employee's names and Social Security numbers with federal databases, but critics have said that it often inaccurately flags foreign-born U.S. citizens.
Toebben said workplace raids can slow production or bring it to a standstill. He said future enforcement could also discourage some companies from hiring people who appear to be foreign-born for fear of hiring undocumented workers and being targeted by ICE.
Toebben said he worries that if the arrests continue, Los Angeles companies could have "a very difficult challenge in meeting their workforce needs."
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