There was one aspect to yesterday’s hearing that I found specifically interesting – and thus deserving of its own blog post.
Since the raid in May, it has come to light that the Department of Labor was investigating Agriprocessors (the kosher meatpacking plant that was the site of the raid) for various labor violations.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was also investigating the plant for the employment of undocumented workers, the culmination of which was the massive invasion of ICE Agents in May and the arrest of nearly 400 workers.
However, it seems as though there was a lack of coordination between these two departments of government.
Representative Bruce Braley (IA), testified that he received conflicting letters from ICE and the Department of Labor regarding the raids. ICE wrote Braley, stating that they had fully informed the Department of Labor about their plans to raid Agriprocessors. The Department of Labor, however, claims that only the Office of the Inspector General was notified, leaving the Wage and Hour Division of the Department (which was busy investigating Agriprocessors) in the dark.
This may seem like a small detail, but in terms of enforcement of labor laws, its huge. It was pointed out during the hearing yesterday that it seems as though the Department of Labor would have a rough time following through on its investigation if the majority of its key witnesses had been detained during the ICE raid.
The Department of Justice maintains that they are fully intend for detainees to aid in the labor violations investigation – and testify if need be. However, 30 of the detained workers have already been deported.
As Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (CA) pointed out, it is very disturbing that ICE did not inform the Wage and Hour Division and its almost as though they intended to disrupt the investigation. The Chairwoman also pointed out that it seemed as though ICE was selectively enforcing some laws, while allowing others to remain violated.
With so much focus during the hearing regarding our status as a “nation of laws” and the committees insistence that the law should be upheld, this hypocrisy seems even more outrageous.
During the hearing, CongressmanSteve King (IA) spoke of undocumented immigrants displacing Americans in the workforce and also stated that they depress wages.
However, without the proper enforcement of wage and labor laws across the board, how can we combat this depression of wages?
The ICE raids interference with the Department of Labor investigation is proof that the raids are a symbolic efforts to “do something” about immigration, not a holistic solution that works to solve the root problems like falling wages.
For more coverage on yesterday’s hearing, you can visit the following links.
The San Francisco Chronicle
Iowa’s Gazette Online
The Washington Post