Biden Administration Orders ICE To End Mass Workplace Raids

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement won't continue to make large-scale arrests of undocumented immigrant workers at factories, warehouses and elsewhere, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Tuesday. This is ICE's latest attempt to sharpen its focus and reverse hardline Trump-era regulations.

A badge of an ICE agent in Revere (Massachusetts) on September 25, 2019. MediaNews Group via Getty Images

The Key Facts

Mayorkas wrote to ICE that mass worksite operations were not effective in stopping employers exploiting undocumented immigrant workers, but can deter workers reporting labor law violations. Sometimes, exploitative employers use them as a retaliation. The Department of Homeland Security stated that it will be focusing on labor trafficking allegations and exploitative employers. It also wants immigrant workers to feel more comfortable with these investigations. Mayorkas gave ICE, and other immigration agencies 60-days to develop new policies to encourage workers reporting labor law issues. This could include granting temporary relief to victims or witnesses from immigration enforcement, according to the memo.

Important Quote

Mayorkas stated that the deployment of large-scale worksite operations sometimes led to the simultaneous arrests of hundreds of workers. However, it was not focused on the most dangerous aspect of the country's illegal employment crisis: exploitative employers.

Important Background

Trump's strict approach to immigration law led to Trump's ex-presidential ramping up ICE raids on workplaces. Nearly 700 illegal immigrants were arrested by ICE in 2019 at multiple locations in Mississippi. This change reversed the Obama-era emphasis on prosecuting employers who exploit undocumented immigrant workers or use them for business purposes, and instead of arresting employees in masse. Critics claim that workplace raids harm immigrants, make them less likely, report crimes, and even though the Trump administration has vowed to crackdown on undocumented immigrants as well as employers who hire illegal immigrants, the Washington Post reported that Trump took longer than the Obama administration two years ago to prosecute businesses for immigration-related issues.


In recent months, the Biden administration has changed many policies of ICE. Staff have been directed by the agency to concentrate more on deporting illegal immigrants or posing a threat to public safety. This is a stark departure from Trump's policy, which had all undocumented immigrants in the US as targets for arrest. Biden-era ICE also promised to not take immigration actions in courts or Covid-19 vaccination clinics. It also plans to stop deporting crime victims and witnesses. These policies are meant to encourage immigrants to report criminal activity and get vaccinated.


ICE is changing its tactics, while U.S. Border Patrol reports a dramatic increase in migrants trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border. Biden's administration blames poverty and violence in Central America for the increase in border arrests. However, some critics feel that Trump's reversal of his strict immigration policies have encouraged migrants to cross. Many migrants who were arrested at the border this year were quickly expelled from the United States by ICE under a pandemic-era strategy. ICE also states that people who illegally entered the United States after November 2020 are still priority for arrest.

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Trump administration accuses few companies of increasing workplace raids (Washington Post).


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