Raids show resolve to find illegal workers
Federal immigration officials have reported arresting 19 illegal immigrants in Honolulu.
The arrest of 19 allegedly illegal immigrants last week at a downtown construction site and a warehouse in Halawa is an encouraging sign that the government has not surrendered on the issue after setbacks in Congress and the courts. The arrests also signal the need to make employers accountable for such hires.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office made the arrests after conducting searches at the 36-story Pinnacle Honolulu luxury high-rise being built at Bishop and Beretania streets and the Halawa warehouse. The action drew praise from the Pacific Resources Partnership of contractors and the Hawaii Carpenters Union.
The raids came only two months after a federal judge in California ordered an indefinite delay in allowing the Homeland Security Department to go forward with a crackdown on U.S. companies that employ illegal immigrants. The judge halted a plan to mail Social Security "no match" letters to 140,000 U.S. employers covering 8 million workers, including 127 letters to Hawaii employers. Employees would have to be fired if the discrepancies in numbers could not be corrected.
The judge's ruling reflected concerns about the many errors in the Social Security Administration's database. The wrong information could unfairly punish tens of thousands of legal workers, including native-born or naturalized U.S. citizens.
The raid also showed that the 9,000 or more illegal immigrants in Hawaii are not confined to farms on Maui and the Big Island, where most are believed to work.
"How widespread is the use of illegal immigrants, and how many other workers are being exploited in the process?" asked Kyle Chock, director of the Hawaii labor-contractor partnership. The answer to that might be known after the evidence that triggered the raids is made public.
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