U.S. Shifts To Stop Employees Intentionally Seeking Illegal Labor

U.S. shifts focus to stop employers intentionally seeking illegal labor

By LAURENCE ILIFF / The Dallas Morning News
12:08 AM CDT on Friday, April 3, 2009

JIUTEPEC, Mexico U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that there will not be a “moratorium” on workplace raids against illegal immigrants but rather a shift toward going after the employers who seek them out.

“I would not say we're talking about a moratorium; that's too blunt a word to use,” she said at a news conference after she and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were meeting on law enforcement issues with their Mexican counterparts.

“It's a more nuanced priority setting, based on how do you get the best immigration enforcement at the work site and really get to those who profit unduly from hiring illegal labor,” she said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had hinted at a shift in policy during her visit to Mexico City last week that is more in line with President Barack Obama's campaign stance that employers should be more of the focus of immigration enforcement.

Napolitano said new guidelines for immigration agents who work in the interior of the country would be issued soon, reflecting the shift in the administration's focus, but insisted the ultimate goal is better enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.

“With respect to the workplace, it is my view and the view of many that we have to have a much more focused effort aimed at the employers themselves, who are intentionally seeking out illegal labor,” she said, “and creating demand that helps pull illegal immigrants across our borders.”

The U.S. officials have been meeting with Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, Interior Minister Fernando Gmez Mont and Public Security Minister Genaro Garca Luna for the past two days. Jiutepec is just south of Mexico City, near Cuernavaca.

The primary focus has been to develop a bilateral strategy to stop the illegal flow of weapons from the United States into Mexico that fuels a drug war that has killed thousands.

Holder said the exact percentage of U.S.-procured weapons used by the Mexican drug traffickers was not the issue. Rather, the U.S. needs to take responsibility like it does for drug use for its role in strengthening drug trafficking groups that operate on both sides of the border.

“The vast majority of the weapons, and especially the high-powered weapons, that are found here in Mexico, that are seized by the Mexican police, the Mexican army, are weapons that come from the United States,” he said.

“This is a reality that we have to face in the United States; it's certainly a reality that people in Mexico and people in law enforcement in Mexico have had to confront,” he said. “We will take responsibility for what is happening and do all we can on our side of the border to stop that flow of guns.”

Medina Mora said Mexico has set up a special border station in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, to search vehicles for illegal weapons and drug money being moved from the U.S. to Mexico.

In coming months, Mexico will spend $1.7 billion to establish such checkpoints all along the border, using a system in which vehicles are checked at random. The stated goal was to search 10 percent of vehicles entering Mexico.

Medina Mora also had some good news a rare commodity in the drug war concerning the number of drug-related killings in Mexico, which has been breaking records for several years.

During the first three months of this year, he said, there were about 1,600 drug-related killings across Mexico. That is about 25 percent less than the last quarter of 2008.