For Immediate Release // Please Excuse Cross Posting
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Contact: Viridiana Vidal, email@example.com
Following Release of DHS Worksite Memo, Immigrant Worker Blue Ribbon Commission Holds First Public Meeting
Nationwide — On Monday evening, workers and advocates from the recently formed Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) hosted a national briefing and announced a series of public hearings to provide input, guidance and evaluation of the new DHS memo on worksite enforcement. The BRC comprised initially of immigrant workers, and advocates from immigrant worker organizations, seeks to ensure that the commitments made by DHS to respect workers’ rights are fulfilled.
The open hearings will take place in coming weeks and they will highlight:
(a) the myriad problems facing immigrant workers,
(b) clear solutions the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor can implement without congressional action, and
(c) metrics through which the new policy can and should be evaluated.
“This announcement is a result of the struggle we’ve all made in Las Vegas, in Mississippi, in Georgia. It’s not something they just decided to do, it happened because of the struggle we’ve advanced, together,” said Rosario Ortiz, a worker and member of the Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, who himself denounced workplace abuse and spoke on behalf of fellow workers in a meeting with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
“So far, these are just promises, just words, and we need action. What would be real? For every worker that denounces workplace abuse – in Las Vegas, Georgia, Mississippi, in Alabama and across the country – to count on work authorization, protection from deportation,” added Rosario.
“If these protections had existed earlier, perhaps the Gainesville poultry workers would’ve been able to trust their labor officials and spoken out earlier – and saved people’s lives,” added Maria del Rosario Palacios, Executive Director of Georgia Familias Unidas (GAFU), who accompanied workers and families impacted by the deadly chemical leak in a Gainesville, GA poultry plant that resulted in the deaths of 6 factory workers in January 2021.
“Work authorization can change a person’s life, all the people on this briefing can tell you that. So with this Blue Ribbon Commission, we hope to speak to the reality of so many workers, so that that we might act to ensure more workers don’t suffer the same fate. We call on others to speak out, join us,” added Maria del Rosario.
The two cases, in Las Vegas, NV, and Gainesville, GA, were the first to be filed with the US Department of Labor under the Biden Administration, before the memo was announced.
Additional members of the Blue Ribbon Commission shared testimony of the myriad workplace abuses that urgently require Labor Officials’ intervention, including from Mississippi, where ICE carried out the largest worksite raid in a generation in 2019.
“These raids left a scar on our hearts. My husband suffered, after being targeted by ICE, he spent a year in immigrant jail. And many never returned to their families, like Edgar Lopez, who was murdered in Tamaulipas, Mexico, trying to return to be with his children in Mississippi. He will never be reunited with his family,” explained Sylvia Garcia, a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission and a community health promoter with the Immigrant Alliance for Justice & Equity (IAJE of MS).
In July of 2021, IAJE filed a request for the US Labor Department to repair the harms committed by the ICE raids, including providing work authorization for impacted workers.
“We hope that the government will act, so that all of us who were impacted by these raids have the opportunity to move forward. Today, we don’t know what will happen to us all, so many that have been forgotten,” added Sylvia.
“Immigrant workers themselves are among the foremost experts on the failure of the status quo immigration and labor enforcement policy,” added Nadia Marin Molina, co-executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and member of the Blue Ribbon Commission. “It’s workers’ bottom up organizing and courage to denounce abuses that moved this process forward, and the Blue Ribbon Commission will ensure that these voices are included in the process going forward.”