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Hispanic Leaders: US Must End Workplace Immigration Raids December 22, 2006

Posted by notapundit in US News.
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SAN ANTONIO (AP)–A week after the largest-ever U.S. crackdown on illegal immigrants in the workplace, Hispanic leaders called Thursday for an end to such raids, saying immigration reform in Congress should be completed first.

“This is the time to take action because families are being destroyed,” said Rosa Rosales, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

She and others at a news conference called on federal officials to end the raids, saying the roundups harm people who are simply trying to support their families.

Last week, federal agents raided six Swift & Co. meatpacking plants and arrested nearly 1,300 workers. Immigration officials accused workers of stealing identities and Social Security numbers to secure jobs at the plants.

An estimated 12 million illegal immigrants are in the U.S., but workplace raids have been relatively rare, with attention focused on border enforcement instead.

“For many years, that has been the status quo,” said Jaime Martinez, president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Now, “they’re trying to arrest as many people as possible until there’s a guest worker program.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Marc Raimondi said that while Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made it clear comprehensive immigration reform is necessary, the agency must enforce existing law.

Border security continues to be a high priority, but ICE has increased interior enforcement as well, Raimondi said. The number of workplace enforcement operations tripled between fiscal year 2005 and 2006, he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush and several members of Congress have proposed plans to allow more immigrant guest workers, but proposals have failed to get traction as groups fight over whether such programs should have time limits and whether illegal immigrants should have ways to obtain legal status without returning to their home countries.

Rosales said she is hopeful immigration policy changes will be enacted after the Democrat-controlled Congress takes office in January. She plans to meet with congressional leaders in the upcoming days to talk about making immigration policy a priority, she said.

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