The Times again picked up on Tuesday's Confined Space story (which was picked up from a story in Inside OSHA), about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau's insistence on continuing to impersonate OSHA officials in order to nab undocumented immigrant workers. ICE officials invited workers to a mandatory OSHA training last July at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, where they arrested 48 workers. ICE is a bureau within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The raid came under fierce criticism from labor unions and immigrant rights officials who argued that immigrant workers, who have a much higher injury and death rate than US-born workers, would be afraid to report dangerous safety conditions to OSHA, or even seek information, if they feared being deported. North Carolina and Federal OSHA officials also opposed the tactic
OSHA officials repeated yesterday the stance they took after the July raid, saying the agency worked to build trust with Hispanic workers. They also said they did not condone using the agency's name in this type of ruse.But despite a statement last October by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff that impersonations using health and safety were not appropriate, ICE officials are defending use of the ruse.
[ICE spokesman Dean] Boyd said the employment of illegal immigrants at sensitive facilities like military bases posed a serious threat to domestic security. He said that, given their illegal status, they might be vulnerable to exploitation by criminals or terrorists.He promised to "coordinate" with OSHA if they use the tactic again (whatever good that will do...)
"That's why we're aggressively targeting these types of workers at sensitive facilities," Mr. Boyd said. "We've got an obligation under the law to do what we need to do to remove those people immediately from a position where they could do potential harm."
AFL-CIO officials disagree with ICE's tactics:
Ana Avendano, a lawyer with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., also criticized immigration officials for not providing the assurances that safety advocates were seeking.
"We told them that the population of workers that we're dealing with is suffering the highest mortality rate and highest injury rate on the job," Ms. Avendano said. "If immigration officials are going to use OSHA as a ruse, all they will do is reduce the trust of workers to go to OSHA with concerns about safety problems."
On a personal note, I find it amazing how many hostile notes I've gotten from people asking me why I allegedly support illegal activity on the part of undocumented immigrants, but oppose illegal activity by employers who violate health and safety laws? And how can I criticize any tactic that nabs lawbreakers?
The simple answer is that illegal immigration may be, well, illegal, but the penalty is not death or serious injury. And, as one of my [more supportive] commenters points out, one crime is more akin to trespassing, while the other is more like negligent homicide.
- 'Illegal' Workers: "They Get What They Deserve?", February 8, 2006
- mmigration Officials Refuse To Stop Impersonating OSHA, February 7, 2006
- APHA Letter To Homeland Security Protesting Fake OSHA Sting, August 23, 2005
- Immigration Scam Causing Concern in Texas, August 6, 2005
- OSHA or Immigration? How To Tell The Difference, July 17, 2005
- NY Times Covers OSHA Impersonation Story, Saturday, July 16, 2005
- Betrayal in North Carolina: Unions Condemn OSHA Impersonators, July 14, 2005
- Stupid and Deadly: Undocumented Workers Lured into Arrest With Promise of Safety Training, July 11, 2005