Following massive workplace raid, TN considers upping employer penalties
- A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid on a Tennessee meatpacking plant last week prompted a state lawmaker to propose a bill aimed at employers that exploit immigrant workers, Knoxville News Sentinel reports. State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Democrat, introduced legislation that would legally and financially punish employers for taking advantage of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
- The bill has three parts: 1) employing "directly or indirectly" 50 or more undocumented immigrants would be a Class E felony if the employer has "reason to know" their workers are undocumented; 2) if ICE detains or deports a worker, the appropriate district attorney would investigate whether the employer violated any employment-related laws; and 3) employers convicted of knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants must pay restitution to a U.S. citizen, state or local government in the form of lost wages or the care and education of detained or deported workers' dependent children.
- The bill comes as an amendment to another bill that would outlaw sanctuary cities in Tennessee, according to the News Sentinel. Proponents of the bill say it's needed to ensure police don't deny ICE detainer requests.
This proposal is an example of the contentious debate surrounding immigration law and enforcement right now. The Trump administration has said it would quadruple job site inspections, and so far it has lived up to its vow. ICE raided 7-Eleven stores nationwide in January and a Chicago bakery last December, and had previously promised a crackdown on the food industry that seems to be ongoing.
States, so far, have had a variety of responses to the crackdown, swinging wildly on the political spectrum. A recent California law bans employers from directly complying with ICE agents, requiring they ask for warrant in response to requests for workplace access, while other states, like Tennessee, are considering a ban on sanctuary cities overall. And federally, the EEOC has said it will be paying close attention to national origin discrimination — meaning employers will need to tread carefully no matter where they may operate.
Whether other state lawmakers will be moved to propose similar legislation (on either end of the spectrum) isn't certain. Meanwhile, employers must comply with immigration laws by ensuring their I-9 forms are accurately completed and managers are taught what to say when approached by an ICE agent.