SEIU's Medina:"It's time for Sec. Napolitano and President Obama to Rein in the Cowboys at ICE"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Published 12:04 PM Eastern - Friday, April 9, 2010

Ali Jost, 202-246-9327

SEIU holds vigils in CA, MA, MN & NY to Urge DHS and ICE to Get its House in Order, Restore Faith in Agency's Competence

Washington, D.C.-- Today, hundreds of SEIU cleaners and security guards are holding prayer vigils outside of local Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices across the country to protest recent enforcement outrages and call on the agency to get its house in order. Rather than wasting limited funds to chase hard-working, tax-paying cleaners, home-care providers and nannies, the activists are calling on President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano to re-focus ICE enforcement on its original goals of targeting crooked employers and criminals.

"In recent months, ICE field officers have been acting like cowboys, more interested in adding scalps to their belts than doing their jobs targeting criminals and abusive employers," said SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina. "As a result, we waste over $17.1 billion dollars a year on a failed enforcement strategy that only serves to benefit the most abusive, off the books, employers, push workers deeper into the underground economy and devastate local communities."

Last week, reports in the New York Times and in the Washington Post unveiled shocking evidence of abuse and mismanagement at the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement Agency (ICE). First, a leaked memo revealed that ICE has issued enforcement quotas for field officers, completely ignoring earlier pledges to keep enforcement focused on criminals and abusive employers. Then, days later, a New York Times story revealed that ICE greeted dozens of Haitians rescued after the earthquake with handcuffs, keeping them in immigration detention for months. Finally, to add insult to injury, a report by DHS's own inspector general showed that local law enforcement enforcing immigration laws have received improper training with little to no oversight.

"We are speaking out against the senseless separation of families and community destruction," said Robert Branch, an SEIU SOULA security officer in Los Angeles.

"We are calling on Sec. Napolitano and President Obama to follow through with their promises; stop these ICE outrages and instead work with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform," added Keyla Kahl, an SEIU Local 26 janitor in Minneapolis.

Branch and Kahl are joining fellow SEIU janitors and security officers to hold peaceful vigils outside of USCIS offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland, Minneapolis, and Boston. In addition, this Saturday SEIU members will join immigrant rights activists for "national day of action" mobilizations in Seattle, Las Vegas and Chicago to urge Congress to move an immigration reform bill forward. Next week, ICE vigils will continue in New York city and other locations across the country.

"DHS and ICE are starting to look like a headless monster. Instead of following the original and sensible plan to focus limited taxpayer resources on criminals and bad-actor employers, ICE agents have gone rogue, targeting hard-working, tax-paying janitors, gardeners and busboys who work for law-abiding employers who pay taxes," continued Medina. "This absurd, wasteful 'strategy' actually empowers the bad guys to further exploit workers, but it doesn't do anything to fix our immigration problems."

"America deserves a professional and well-managed enforcement agency that sticks to the constructive mission of punishing criminals and going after the bad-actor employers who exploit workers and push down wages for everyone. DHS's enforcement strategy must be in concert with-not in opposition to-the goal of eliminating our underground economy and improving wages and working conditions for all workers.

"Of course, over the long-term, there is only one real solution to our immigration problems. Instead of pandering to extremists who fantasize about mass deportation, Secretary Napolitano and President Obama must intensify their efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. It is the only solution; it is the only way to restore sanity to the broken immigration system," Medina concluded.

BACKGROUND: SEIU's Immigration Enforcement and Reform Principles.

SEIU believes that America deserves a professional and well-managed immigration enforcement agency that sticks to the constructive mission of punishing criminals and the most abusive employers. DHS and ICE must be able to distinguish between bad-actor-employers and those who are merely caught in a broken system. They should focus scarce resources on the bad actors who intentionally take advantage of our dysfunctional immigration system to exploit workers and push down wages for everyone.

SEIU also believes that over the long-term, the only real solution to our broken system is comprehensive immigration reform. As the largest union of immigrant workers, and also a union that represents more than a million workers who are not immigrants, we hope and expect that our nation's leaders will enact workable solutions to our immigration problems and that they will recognize that punitive, anti-immigrant measures are neither realistic nor workable. Read more about SEIU's Immigration Reform Principles and about Change to Win and AFL-CIO's joint labor framework.

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With 2.2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas and the largest union of immigrants. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy.

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