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June 18, 2009 Updated: August 24, 2020

WASHINGTON – A National Commission investigating immigration enforcement under the Bush Administration released a comprehensive new report today documenting the devastation and destruction that immigration raids had on families, workplaces and communities across the country.

The report, Raids on Workers: Destroying Our Rights, offers a critical analysis of one of the central components of the Bush Administration’s immigration strategy and provides a detailed account of how heavy handed enforcement tactics led to systemic abuse of workers’ rights and a willful disregard for the rule of law.

“This commission was formed to examine allegations of abuse and misconduct by ICE agents during the course of immigration raids,” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the commission and president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “What we have uncovered is that during the Bush Administration ICE agents repeatedly trampled on innocent workers’ constitutional rights. These were not isolated incidents, but systemic problems that occurred in almost every region of the country. No government agency is above the law, and no worker should have to face the mistreatment and misconduct that these hardworking men and women were subjected to under the Bush Administration.”

The Commission, which is made up of former elected officials, labor leaders, academics, civil rights leaders and immigration and legal experts, spent more than a year holding regional hearings, interviewing witnesses and soliciting input from a wide range of workers, elected officials, policy experts, psychologists, and religious and community leaders.

The result is the most expansive analysis of the Bush Administration’s use of workplace raids and its total failure to address the wider problems of our nation’s broken immigration system.

Upon its creation, the commissioners set out to achieve the following objectives:

  • Conduct hearings on allegations of ICE abuse and misconduct in locations across the country;
  • Hear from workers and their families on the impact of ICE raids;
  • Hear testimony from community leaders, academics, constitutional experts and the business community;
  • Inform the public and elected officials;
  • Issue a report on the findings with a plan of action to protect workers’ constitutional rights from any future abuse;

At each hearing, clear patterns began to emerge regarding the tactics used by ICE agents and how the procedures used by these officials were compromising the rights of workers.

The testimony the Commission received revealed several disturbing patterns:

  • U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents detained for hours unable to leave even after establishing their status
  • A lack of coordination by ICE with state and local labor and child welfare agencies
  • Violations of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • The use of massive amounts of taxpayer resources and personnel to administer civil warrants
  • Repeated incidents of racial profiling and harassment
  • The human toll of immigration enforcement, including family separation and children left without proper care
  • Lasting economic and psychological devastation of communities and families in the aftermath of workplace and community raids

In addition to examining the impact of the raids, the Commission’s report lays out a clear path to a sensible, legal, and effective immigration enforcement policy that is consistent with the following objectives:

  • Target enforcement at criminal employers who abuse the immigration system and exploit an undocumented workforce;
  • Coordinate enforcement with the Department of Labor to protect workers and preserve their rights before any possible detention or processing;
  • Treat workers and their families with respect so they will be more inclined to assist in the prosecution of criminal employers, and to build trust between law enforcement and the community;
  • Vigorous oversight over ICE’s activities;
  • Stronger enforcement of existing federal labor laws;
  • Coordinated humanitarian efforts in the wake of workplace enforcement actions;
  • Enhancement of legal protections against abuse.

The Commission report also emphasized the need for passage of meaningful comprehensive immigration reform legislation – and concluded that piecemeal immigration proposals would never solve the underlying issues. The report lays out a series of elements that should be included in immigration reform legislation, including a path to earned legalization, family unification and stronger sanctions of employers that break the law.

“This report was written to ensure that there is an historical account of the Bush administration’s actions, so that former government officials cannot whitewash history,” added Hansen. “It also represents an opportunity to start a national discussion about immigration, worker rights and our core values as a nation. We hope to use this report – and its recommendations – to jumpstart a new dialogue with Congress and with the American public—about an immigration system that works for America’s workers.”

>>> Click here to download a copy of the report

>>> Click here to listen to the release

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