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Is forcing American Apparel to lay off workers a replacement for raids?

From the Restore Fairness blog

I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to bring about immigration reform. Whereas I know he has the intention to do so, getting the job done is another story.

Words from the farewell letter written by Dov Charney, American Apparel’s chief executive, to almost a quarter of his staff laid off because of a federal investigation that found irregularities in their documents. According to a New York Times article,

The firings at the company, American Apparel, have become a showcase for the Obama administration’s effort to reduce illegal immigration by forcing employers to dismiss unauthorized workers rather than through workplace raids. The firings, however, have divided opinion in California over the fallout of the new approach, especially at atime of record joblessness in the state and with a major, well-regarded employer as a target.

In fact just yesterday California lawmakers put forth a resolution which passed in the California Senate (it does not have the force of law) whose first sentence states, “The State of California….strives to enable all residents to work and live free from discrimination, exploitation, and repressive federal immigration enforcement.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has opened audits of 654 other companies, but what makes American Apparel stand out is its open and strong support of immigration reform (remember Legalize L.A.!). While it’s certainly been a relief to see a stop to the old workplace raids, replacing these with a different kind of enforcement that often has the same effects is not quite the solution one is looking for.

It was an interpreter translating in the hearings for nearly 400 immigrant workers picked up in the Postville raid who revealed that many of the workers pleaded guilty to social security fraud (a dubious claim that the Supreme Court rejected) without understanding the criminal charges they were facing, or the rights that they had waived. Many went on to serve 5 months in jail and then get deported.

Two new documentaries examine the effects of the raids by tracing them back to their villages in Guatemala. Both Guatemala: A Tale of Two Villages that screened on PBS’s Frontline and In the Shadow of a Raid (courtesy FIRM) show how the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history made a Guatemalan village weep while pushing an Iowa farm town to the brink of collapse.

www.restorefairness.org

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