ACLU Calls for Records on “Silent Raids” of California Workplaces

September 8, 2011

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding immigration enforcement audits of California workplaces by the federal government was filed today by The ACLU of California (ACLU), the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union, The Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union Local 164B, the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West (“USWW”), and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

The ACLU and others are asking for records related to “I-9” audits and other workplace-based actions by federal immigration authorities, including the criteria and triggers for investigations, records from actual workplace investigations in California, and aggregate data regarding arrests and other immigration actions taken against employees identified through worksite actions.

The I-9 form is used to verify a person’s authorization to work in the United States.

“The public has a right to know about these ‘silent raids’ on American workplaces,” said Julia Harumi Mass, a staff attorney with the ACLU of California. “Is the federal government trying to detect bad actors who hire undocumented workers to avoid labor law obligations, or are there other triggers that explain why several unionized workplaces have been audited recently?”

“While the Department of Homeland Security and ICE claim that our government’s top priority is to catch individuals who pose a serious threat community safety, we have seen a record number of deportations of regular working people. In the midst of a recession, we need to know if our government is wasting precious time and money checking the working papers of laborers instead of finding proactive solutions to our immigration challenges,” Mass added.

In news reports earlier this year ICE announced that it would audit a record number of employers.

“From janitorial firms, to Pacific Steel, to Chipotle, there is a lot that we just don’t know about federal immigration audits in the workplace,” said Conchita Lozano-Batista, an attorney with Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld. “Business and labor may not often agree but this is one place where everyone involved wants an open and transparent conversation. The federal government is certainly right to crack down on unscrupulous employers who break labor and employment laws. But without the full picture and supporting documentation, it would seem that the employers who are bearing the brunt of these audits are employers who are involved in collective bargaining agreements with labor unions. That is bad for business, workers and the American people.”