National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Review of Bellingham Workplace Raid is Encouraging Sign of Intelligent Approach to Immigration by Obama Administration

February 26, 2009


Washington, DCOn Tuesday, ICE agents raided a workplace in Bellingham Washington.  On Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was questioned about the raid by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) while Napolitano testified before the House Homeland Security Committee.  Later Wednesday, Secretary Napolitano announced her office would conduct a review of how and why the raid was conducted.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.


We are pleased Secretary Napolitano acted quickly to call for an investigation and that the White House made clear that workplace raids are inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s broader approach to immigration and enforcement oversight.  Clearly, the voices of Americans across the country calling for sensible immigration reform are starting to be heard. 


Rep. Lofgren’s questions for the Secretary about the raid were right on target. In expressing her concerns, Rep Lofgren underscored the fact that in a number of previous raids, basic due process and civil rights have been denied to U.S. citizens as well as immigrants detained by ICE, just one of the serious problems associated with workplace raids.


The previous Administration gave the green light for bigger and bigger raids with maximum force, minimum due process of law, and broad use of criminal charges to prosecute immigrant workers.  This has been mirrored and amplified in many cases by local authorities engaging in immigrant-related enforcement across the country.  All the while, little attention was paid to prosecuting employers who violated immigration and labor laws and even less to oversight, review, and accountability up the command chain to the Secretary in Washington.  The review announced by Secretary Napolitano and the broader review of enforcement and resources her agency is undertaking cannot come too quickly.


From their reaction to the Bellingham episode, it is clear the Obama Administration understands there is a need for enforcement, but a need to make sure enforcement is conducted properly and in a manner consistent with core values of fairness and due process. 


As we have seen for two decades, enforcement alone will not address the problems with our current immigration system.  That is why we continue to call on the President, his Cabinet, and leaders in both parties in Congress to quickly get about the business of reform and giving America an immigration system that we can be proud of.


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