Wednesday, April 1, 2009

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: ICE Releases Workers Arrested in Bellingham Raid

Today the Obama administration gave a major sign that it is shifting how it handles immigration enforcement--they released the majority of the 28 individuals detained in the raid on Yamato Engine Specialists in February with the option of either returning to their home country or receiving work permits while the case is pending.

The Bellingham raid was the first major worksite raid of the Obama administration. After advocates organized quickly in response to the raid, stating that such raids violated campaign promises that said immigration enforcement should focus on the employer and not on the workers themselves, the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano issued statements saying that raids were not their policy and that they would begin an immediate investigation into the events in Bellingham.

Today's release of the workers is the first sign that they have taken both their investigation and promise to focus on employers seriously.

The documents immigrants received upon their release stated "that per the assistant United States attorney assigned to this case, all persons involved with the Yamato Engine Specialists ... should be afforded the benefit of deferred action and an employment authorization document, valid for the duration of this case."

This is a huge shift from the Bush administration's policies which typically either deported someone after a stint in detention or forced immigrants to stay in detention while their case was pending.

Providing immigrants with work permits during the case's investigation both shifts the onus onto the employer and lessens the burden placed on social service providers in the community, who--in places like Postville, IA--are still providing for dozens of families who lost their main breadwinner to the raid nearly a year after its actual occurance.

We're pleased to see this move by the Administration and hope that it signifies future work in aligning enforcement practices with humanitarian values.

More Posts on the Bellingham Raid

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