BY SETH GALINSKY
Federal prosecutions of immigration violations jumped nearly 16 percent in the 2009 fiscal year. The record high numbers are a clear signal the administration of Barack Obama is stepping up its attacks on undocumented workers.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 387,000 immigrant workers last year—the highest recorded number in U.S. history. An immigrant worker can expect to be herded through the court system in two days, while the federal government takes an average of 460 days to prosecute someone accused of a “white collar” crime.
In November ICE announced it had ordered immigration audits of at least 1,650 companies, triple the number in 2008. Employers use these audits to fire workers whose papers are considered inadequate.
Because of pressure from the U.S. government, the number of companies currently using E-Verify is increasing by nearly 2,000 a week. More than 175,000 companies participate in the program, which allows bosses to check the immigration and work status of potential and current employees through the Internet, making it more difficult for workers without papers to find jobs.
Over the last year, the Obama administration has expanded two programs: “287 (g),” which gives local police the authority to act as immigration cops, and “Secure Communities,” which seeks to check the fingerprints of every prisoner in the United States, including in local jails, with FBI and Department of Homeland Security databases to find and deport those without papers.
According to an October report by Dora Schriro, former Special Advisor on ICE Detention and Removal for the Department of Homeland Security, there are more than 300 ICE jails in the United States and its possessions.
On a typical day some 31,000 immigrants are in ICE custody. Of the almost 379,000 immigrants who passed through ICE detention in 2008, 58 percent were from Mexico and 27 percent from Central America.
ICE claims that about half of the immigrant workers it detains are “felons” although it admits that less than 6 percent of those held are accused of violent crimes.
By downplaying high-profile factory raids and painting many detained workers as criminals, the U.S. government aims to undercut support for legalization of undocumented immigrants.
The federal government wants to keep the supply of immigrant workers coming in—the bosses need them to boost their profit margins and maintain their competitive edge against capitalists in Europe and around the world—but the employers want to increase their control of the labor supply in a time of economic crisis.
As deportations, prosecutions, and firings of immigrant workers mount, demonstrations continue to be called to press for legalization and the overturning of anti-immigrant laws.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Puente Arizona have called for a protest January 16 in Phoenix, home to notorious anti-immigrant sheriff Joseph Arpaio.
The demonstration calls for an end to the 287 (g) and Secure Communities programs and for providing “legal status and political equality to undocumented immigrants.”