Leading the fight for safe and healthy workplaces

You are here

Cease of mass ICE raids at worksites is a step in the right direction, says National COSH

Thursday, October 14, 2021
Press Contacts: 

Melissa Moriarty, melissa@nationalcosh.org , 603-505-7135

Cease of mass ICE raids at worksites is a step in the right direction, 

says National COSH

Undocumented workers gain some protections thanks to COSH movement’s pressure

LOS ANGELES -- Leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) offered support today for new guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  which calls for an end to mass immigration raids in U.S. workplaces.  

“DHS got it right.  We need to punish the employers who exploit workers, not the workers who are victims of exploitation,” said Jessica E. Martinez, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “DHS is taking a step in the right direction, and following recommendations made earlier this year by our COSH movement. We are relieved that DHS has recognized that raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) silence workers and expose them to retaliation in these investigations.”

The National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health, released in February 2021 by National COSH, local COSH groups, partners and allies called for DHS and the U.S. Department of Labor to protect workers who are victims of wage theft, safety violations and other workplace abuses, and to “refrain from engaging in enforcement at worksites.” These issues were raised directly with Labor Secretary Martin Walsh during a meeting with COSH leaders in August.

The new guidance from DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas also calls for the agency to:

  • Identify “policies that may impede non-citizens workers, including victims of forced labor, from asserting their workplace rights.”
  • “[A]lleviate or mitigate the fear that victims of, and witnesses to, labor trafficking and exploitation may have regarding their cooperation with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of unscrupulous employers.”
  • Consider, on a case-by-case basis, “prosecutorial discretion for workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, workplace exploitation.”

“Let’s not forget that nothing - not this memo or future policy guidelines -- will undo the fact that earlier this year six workers died of asphyxiation due to a nitrogen leak at a Gainesville, Georgia,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “We called on ICE to stay away from that investigation after reports that  survivors were being grilled about their immigration status before being allowed medical care or worker’s compensation. Last week a judge said an FFG equipment supplier, Messer Gas, had knowingly thrown out critical evidence. These preventable workplace deaths are a sad example of what happens when an employer’s neglect and abuses go unchecked.” 

The new DHS guidance also seeks for input to ensure that E-verify’s highly flawed database, which keeps millions out of the workforce, can be strengthened so that it is not used as a tool for workplace retaliation. “E-Verify is unreliable, full of errors, and is typically used against workers, not exploitative employers,” said Martinez. “COSH groups, our allies and partners look forward to participating in discussions about how to focus immigration enforcement where it belongs -- on companies that take advantage of vulnerable workers,” said Martinez.

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.