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Interfaith Worker Justice Calls for an End to All Workplace Immigration Raids

For Immediate Release

Contact: Cynthia Brooke, communications director

Interfaith Worker Justice


W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

Chicago, IL  60660

Office: 773-728-8400, ext 40; Cell: 773-391-5543


US immigration agents raided the Yamato Engine Specialists factory in Bellingham, Washington on February 24, 2009. The plant employs approximately 100 workers who rebuild Japanese car engines and transmissions. Immigration authorities arrested and chained 28 workers, including three mothers.


Interfaith Worker Justice categorically opposes all immigration raids at workplaces across the United States. These raids target racial and ethnic groups that appear to be "foreign" and are blatantly discriminatory; tear families apart, often leaving children without parents or caregivers; impoverish entire communities; undermine basic civil liberties; deter workers from reporting serious workplaces abuses, including health and safety violations and theft of wages by unscrupulous employers; and do nothing to fix a broken immigration system. In the language of war, these impacts may be seen as "collateral damage," the unfortunate side effects of enforcing the law. But these raids are an affront to human dignity, a totally disproportionate response to the concern and need to enforce immigration laws, as flawed as they are.


Interfaith Worker Justice applauds President Obama's commitment to defend the rights of all workers and get our economy working again. President Obama has shown extraordinary leadership in facing the economic crisis, passing the stimulus and working to create jobs in our communities. We commend his appointment of Congresswoman Hilda Solis, a longtime fighter for worker rights and the daughter of immigrant workers, as Secretary of Labor.


We understand that many people of good will are troubled about the issue of immigration, given the problems native-born workers face in today's workplace, including job insecurity, rising unemployment and a downward push on wages and benefits. Interfaith Worker Justice is dedicated to organizing the religious community to support the rights of all workers, particularly those earning low wages. When our government actively generates fear and havoc among immigrant workers and their families, fuels the fires of bigotry and turns groups of workers against each other based on race, ethnicity and immigration status, we are all diminished.


As people of faith, we recognize and honor the social and economic contributions made by immigrant workers, regardless of their national origin or immigration status. In order to promote human dignity, the civil and workplace rights of all workers must be upheld. From placing food on our tables, making our clothes, or caring for our sick, immigrant workers provide many of our daily needs. While we rely on their work, we allow immigrant workers to be denied basic rights because of their legal status. While many live and work without legal documentation-there are an estimated 12 million undocumented people in the US-legal residents and naturalized citizens also experience discrimination.


Workplace raids are not carried out to apprehend identified law breakers, as is sometimes claimed by the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). ICE agents, often wielding assault rifles, sweep into workplaces and detain hundreds of employees-nearly 600 at a recent raid in Mississippi alone. The raids violate basic human rights and offend deeply held American and faith values, such as family unity, welcoming immigrants, and the value of work.


It is time for these raids to stop. Interfaith Worker Justice condemns all workplace immigration raids, and calls for an immediate moratorium on all such raids. IWJ calls on Congress and the President to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Comprehensive immigration reform must aim to provide full and equal protections of employment and labor laws, civil liberties and civil rights for all workers in the U.S. Reform should work to remove economic incentives for the exploitation of immigrant labor and strengthen requirements to fairly consider hiring native-born workers. Permanent status must be favored over temporary status, and families must be valued and allowed to remain intact.

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