Mayorkas issued a memo on Tuesday that could open a pathway for the first-ever workplace protections for undocumented people in the US
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered immigration officials to halt workplace raids for undocumented people, according to a memo sent Tuesday.
But while building up protections for undocumented people already in the country, the Biden administration continues to crack down on migrants encountered at the southern border using controversial public health rule Title 42.
‘We can most effectively protect the American labor market, the conditions of the American worksite, and the dignity of the individual by focusing our worksite enforcement efforts on unscrupulous employers,’ Mayorkas told immigration officials in the memo.
In the same message, he called for policy changes that would pave the way for the first workplace protections for undocumented people in US history by shielding those who report employers for workplace violations.
He called for officials to figure out a way to reduce the demand for undocumented workers by increasing penalties for business owners who employ them, as well as ‘increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers.’
Mayorkas threw out several options for steps in that direction, including deferring immigration enforcement or simply allowing the continued presence of undocumented people who witnessed or were subjected to harmful workplace standards.
‘We will not tolerate unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities, or impose unsafe working conditions. Employers engaged in illegal acts compel the focus of our enforcement resources,’ Mayorkas said.
‘By adopting policies that focus on the most unscrupulous employers, we will protect workers as well as legitimate American businesses.’
The memo gives DHS officials 60 days to make a blueprint for Mayorkas’ proposed new policies.
Also on Tuesday, Mayorkas bizarrely claimed that Donald Trump’s Title 42 expulsion rule is not an immigration policy the Biden White House ‘would embrace’ – despite the Democratic administration waging a legal battle to keep it in place.
In fact Biden officials used the policy to deport thousands of Haitian migrants who has recently made their way to the southern border in record numbers.
During the seven-minute Yahoo News interview Mayorkas acknowledged that his department has been under fire for its enforcement of the controversial order, particularly against Haitians.
‘The Title 42 authority is a public health authority. And it is not an immigration policy. It is not an immigration policy that we in this administration would embrace,’ Mayorkas said.
‘But we view it as a public health imperative as the Centers for Disease Control has so ordered.’
It’s a line that Biden officials have used to deflect criticism from immigration and civil rights groups that once supported his candidacy on his promise to roll back Trump’s more restrictive immigration policies.
Some of those same groups are now suing to get the order repealed. In September the Biden administration faced a setback when a judge ordered officials to let Title 42 expire, but federal lawyers appealed the ruling.
Just one day before it was set to end, a US Appeals Court judge issued a stay on the previous order, allowing Title 42 to remain in place.
The CDC also reinforced the order at the end of their 60-day review on October 3.
The Trump administration had been criticized for using the pandemic as a shield to circumvent US and international refugee laws to deport thousands of migrants.
But on Tuesday Mayorkas continued to push the Republican’s argument.
‘We’re in the midst of a pandemic. For anyone to think it’s business as usual I think would be, frankly, ignoring a pandemic that has taken more than 700,000 American lives,’ he said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic upended life across the globe, Trump administration officials pushed the CDC to invoke a seldom-used public health order that allows the government to crack down on immigration in a public health emergency.
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. watch a puppet show performed by local police officers on October 10
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. queue to receive used clothing. Under the Biden administration’s watch a record number of asylum-seekers have come to the southwest border
Customs officers are enabled to turn certain persons away if ‘there is serious danger of the introduction of disease into the United States,’ according to Section 265 of U.S. Code Title 42.
So the CDC enacted the rule in March 2020, permitting any border agent to turn migrants away regardless of asylum status.
President Biden did roll back enforcement to allow unaccompanied minors and families with young children to stay. His other reforms including reducing the number of officers on patrol mean the rule’s enforcement significantly decreased under the Democratic administration.
But Biden has used Title 42 nearly twice as much as Trump has, according to a report released just days ago.
From March to December 2020, Trump officials deported about 395,000 people using the measure.
Biden expelled nearly 700,000 migrants under Title 42 from February through August of 2021, according to calculations by Time.
Mayorkas said on Tuesday that DHS was at one point ‘reviewing’ Title 42 but again passed responsibility to the CDC.
‘It’s a public health-driven analysis that we ourselves in the Department don’t conduct but the Centers for Disease Controls conducts. And we were, in fact, reviewing it,’ he said.
Last month thousands of migrants from Haiti crossed the perilous Darien Gap to try and claim asylum in the U.S.
‘I think we are unanimous in the fact that we hope public health authorities are no longer necessary because we have the pandemic behind us. But that is not where we are.’
Last week a group of medical experts sent a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Wallensky urging her to repeal Title 42. They claimed its enforcement in the name of fighting COVID-19 had ‘no basis in science.’
But the Biden administration appears desperate to curb a record surge of migrants at the border under the president’s watch.
The total number of migrants encountered at the border in Fiscal Year 2021, which ended on September 30, topped 1.7 million.
Trump released a statement bashing Biden officials for being ‘stupid enough to allow such a thing to happen’ on Tuesday.
‘Our Border has gone from the safest and most secure in history, by far, to a broken, dirty, and disgusting wreck with thousands of unknown people from unknown countries, including from their now emptied prisons all over the world, unsustainably pouring in,’ the former president said.
‘Crime will go up at levels that the U.S. has never seen before (it is actually already there), and terrorism will be the next big wave to lead the way.’
Mayorkas and the CDC both said that Title 42 is in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 as the rate of new infections falls after a summer surge
After a summer increase the number of COVID deaths is also beginning to decrease, though the CDC said as recently as early October that Title 42 is still necessary
In July more than 212,000 migrants were encountered at the southwest border, a 21-year record high.
In August the number was just north of 208,000 – a 317 percent increase from the same period in 2020.
Images of mostly Haitian migrants camped out under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas in squalid and crowded conditions prompted a humanitarian outcry against the Biden administration. Within days there were approximately 15,000 people in the small area.
A majority of them had moved to South America following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. But after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged economies across the continent, many were desperate for a chance at a new life in the US.
Asked about the record-breaking surge of migrants coming to the country this year, Mayorkas said it was due to an ‘accumulation of factors’
‘I think that pieces of the many different theories compiled together form a very compelling answer. The downturn in economies, the attendant rise in violence, the downturn in economies made more acute by reason of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suppression of any humanitarian relief over the past number of years, and the pent-up thirst for relief among many different populations,’ he said.
‘I think an accumulation of factors contributes to the rise in migration that we’ve seen.’