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They Took Their Jobs: Obama’s Crackdown on Migrant Workers

By: Alice Salles - Sep 23, 2014, 2:24 pm

EspañolIt seems like it was only yesterday that conservative politicians and media figures were showing solidarity toward refugee children stuck at the US border.

Where did all the enthusiasm go?

As the immigration reform debate appears to lose momentum, and an incongruous Congress pretends the coming election cycle is all about the Middle East, President Obama vows to use his executive power to act on the matter. President Obama’s “reforms,” however, will not bring the changes necessary to address the problems that have facilitated the increased flow of child migrants to the United States since 2012.

“He Wouldn’t Have Made It without the Latino Vote”

Aside from the recent round of debate, immigration has always been a sensitive issue for the Obama administration; not because the issue is particularly important to the president, but because it sounds good when he pretends to care.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement pursues migrants who are willing to work..
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement pursues migrants who are willing to work. (Wikipedia)

During his presidency, Obama has overseen the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bully a record number of companies over their hiring practices. Under his watch, ICE has collected nearly US$13 million in fines from companies whose sole crime has been to exercise their right to hire whomever they like.

According to data provided by ICE, 250 companies were audited for hiring illegal immigrants in 2007. In 2012 alone, more than 3,000 companies were audited for the same reason.

While a practical approach to immigration law reform is more than welcome, keeping companies from hiring those who are willing to work is contributing to their failure. The mass layoffs and brushes with the law represent a major burden for medium-size firms who depend on their manpower to keep their doors open.

The Obama administration’s insistence on looking tough on immigration law enforcement has contributed directly to the shortage of US workers, which in turn, is causing great harm on real people, their businesses, and their families.

ICE Shutting Down Businesses

Polish immigrant Louis Botchman first opened his hospitality laundry business in Peeksill, New York in 1939, and it has been run by his family ever since. Now, the company faces tough days ahead if ICE finds their suspicions regarding Botchman’s hiring practices hold true. According to Louis’s son, Bruce Botchman, ICE claims 339 of his company’s 575 employees have used questionable documentation on their I-9 forms. As a result, the agency will now conduct an audit of the company.

“This could put us out of business in a few days,” said Bruce Botchman, the employer who pays an average of $10 an hour to his workers, while also providing them with health care coverage and pensions. “This is my baby, I built it. These people are my family. I was crying all weekend. I didn’t know what to do. This could be the end of me.”

Theoretically, audits are launched when companies are suspected of engaging in abuse or exploitation of workers. In 2013 alone, however, ICE audited 3,127 businesses under this pretense. With numbers like these, either US businesses became incredibly abusive toward their workers all of a sudden, or the Obama administration has a problem with immigrants who prefer to work instead of looking for government handouts.

Never Let a Good Crisis…

There’s at least one industry thriving at the expense of the influx of immigrants.

The child migrant crisis sparked an increase in the private prison industry's profits.
The child migrant crisis sparked an increase in the private-prison industry’s profits. (Independent)

In June of 2014, the Department of Homeland Security detained 10,622 unaccompanied children along the US border. In light of these reports, the federal government started to push for the establishment of privately run detention centers, with the purpose of housing young children and women attempting to cross into the United States.

The influx of migrant children prompted a boost in the industry, causing the share prices of the two major private-prison firms in the United States to shoot up. Since July 30, GEO Group’s share prices have climbed 7 percent, while Corrections Corporation of America’s share prices spiked 8.5 percent.

The swollen numbers from June were enough to prompt the White House to push a $3.7 billion project that included the building of more detention centers along the southern border. The emergency plan was not authorized by Congress, but that didn’t stop the Obama administration from transferring funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Coast Guard to support its plan.

In spite of the mad rush to exploit the “crisis,” the number of unaccompanied children and adults with children crossing the US border declined sharply in August. Nevertheless, the White House chose to go ahead with its plan, resulting in the GEO Group extending its contract with ICE to develop more detention centers.

It is also worth noting that ICE chose to extend its contract with GEO despite the company’s dubious history in maintaining safe environments for migrants held in their facilities.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 200 allegations of sexual abuse associated with immigration detention facilities have been reported since 2007. GEO Group alone has been involved in more than 100 lawsuits regarding abuse against inmates in their many correctional facilities between 1995 and 2007.

Prohibition and Private Prisons

Only when government is involved can a private company ignore market demands and still keep its doors open.

Private correctional facilities, funded by federal tax dollars, are now in the business of holding children whose lives were turned upside down in their home countries because of the demand for illicit drugs in the United States. Meanwhile, ICE continues to persecute countless willing workers by forcibly preventing employers from offering them jobs.

Heavy-handed intervention in private matters hurts business, employers and employees alike. Meanwhile, the war on immigrants and the war on drugs boost an industry that thrives on criminalizing people for having been born in the wrong place.

The work these agencies do represents more than a waste of taxpayer dollars; they have immeasurably damaged our economy, and will continue to do so until workers are allowed to work and employers are allowed to hire whomever they wish.

Alice Salles Alice Salles

Alice Salles is a wordsmith, editor, and ghost writer. As a UnitedLiberty.org contributor and columnist for the popular Brazilian culture and politics website Liberzone.com.br, she covers both foreign and domestic policy and offers commentary from a libertarian perspective. Follow @AliceSalles.