LaborTalk for May 31, 2011

Obama Enlists Employers to Discharge
Undocumented Workers or Be Penalized

By Harry Kelber

Obama administration officials are increasing their crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Last year, the Immigration and Enforcement Department (ICE) started 2,740 workplace investigations, in addition to its audits, more than double the number in 2008, with fines totaling about $43 million and jail sentences, according to government figures.

The Supreme Court, on May 26, upheld an Arizona law that severely penalizes businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. In a ruling that is likely to embolden Congress, and other states, the court, in a 5-3 decision, declared that Arizona's law fits comfortably within the state's powers.

Department of Homeland Security officials said that immigration officials were no longer authorized to carry out workplace raids (as they were under the Bush administration) unless they cooperated with federal prosecutors to prepare criminal cases against the employers. Last year, 119 employers were convicted.

While conducting fewer headline-making factory raids, immigration authorities have greatly expanded the number of businesses facing scrutiny and subject to severe sanctions. President Obama was reacting to criticism from Republicans, who had accused him of relaxing immigration enforcement in the workplace.

By enlisting the nation's corporations in a witch-hunt to drive millions of illegal immigrants from their jobs, the Obama administration is conducting a one-sided war against some eight or nine million undocumented workers, a vast number of whom have lived in the United States for years, raised a family, paid their taxes, served in the U.S. military and have no criminal record.

AFL-CIO Is Silent on Court's Decisions

There was no response to the court's May 26 ruling, either on the AFL-CIO NOW web site or by President Trumka, but it was disturbing news to labor leaders who are trying to organize workplaces in construction, agriculture, retail sales and hospitals, where millions of undocumented workers are now employed.

Should unions oppose or go along with the government's witch-hunt of illegal immigrants? Should union members care about what happens to these millions of workers, whom the Obama administration is intent on denying a livelihood?

Does Obama intend to offer jobs to American workers as replacements for the illegal immigrants he wants fired? What does he plan to do with the millions of undocumented families that have lived in the United States for years?

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Shouldn't our strong belief in Labor Solidarity extend to undocumented workers who came to the United States, just as our ancestors did, to earn a better life?

LaborTalk will be posted here on June 3, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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