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National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

March/April 1998 issue of Poverty & Race

National Network for Immigrant
& Refugee Rights
310 8th St., #307
Oakland, CA 94607
Contact: Cathi Tactaquin

This last year has seen a significant rise in the number and scale of immigration raids on workplaces throughout the country. We have initiated a national task force which has been monitoring the raids, and which shares strategies for responding to them, often working in coalition with local community, religious, labor and civil rights groups.

These raids are occurring as the government has renewed its efforts at interior enforcement, identifying undocumented immigrant workers for arrest and eventual deportation. Although the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), in its controversial "employer sanctions" provision, outlawed the hiring of undocumented persons, enforcement against employers, who are subject to civil and criminal penalties, has always lagged. The immigrant worker has been the target of enforcement efforts, creating instead "employee sanctions." Employers have used the threat of sanctions to heighten worker exploitation. with the effect that undocumented workers are driven further into the underground economy.

Although early government studies acknowledged widespread discrimination due to employer sanctions against people "appearing foreign," sanctions have remained in place. In fact, employer sanctions have become much less controversial, and legal and political challenges to them have diminished. Several year ago, with PRRAC's financial support, we coordinated a survey about employer practices with regard to employer sanctions, and also found troubling patterns of bias against workers perceived as foreign-born.

Our survey of over 4(X) employers showed that educational outreach to employers was grossly inadequate, so that employers often functioned in ignorance of how the law was to be implemented and workers' rights protected. Since that time, there has been little further employer education. The National Network is now in the process of re-releasing a report from that survey, written by Lina Avidan, and intends to reinvigorate a national discussion and reexamination of employer sanctions. We want to explore the role of sanctions in contributing to increased prejudice and exploitation of immigrant workers in a climate of heightened anti-immigrant hostility and immigration law enforcement. The matter will also be taken up at a national conference on immigration enforcement to be held in Los Angeles at the end of May, which we are co-sponsoring with the Immigration Law Enforcement Project of the American Friends Service Committee and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

For information on the report or the conference, check our web site at or call 510/465-1984. A new English/Spanish "Raids Organizing Kit" is also available from us ($13), and the latest issue of our quarterly Network News focuses on the role and conditions of immigrant workers.

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