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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Stop the Deportation of the Workers in the Buffalo Restaurant Raids

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Via Change.org:

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raided several Mexican restaurants in and around the City of Buffalo, detaining at least 25 people connected to the restaurants. This petition requests that DHS exercise discretion in terminating their deportation proceedings.

Sixteen of the twenty-five individuals arrested have not been charged with any crime. At least four of these workers have been placed in deportation proceedings despite appearing to be the victims – not the perpetrators – of their employer’s criminal scheme. The criminal complaint states that these workers were working 16 hours per day, 6 days per week and being paid as little as $500. This amounts to far less than the minimum wage and no overtime pay.


DHS claims that it raided these restaurants in part to protect workers from exploitation. In addition, DHS has recognized that effective “enforcement of labor law is essential to ensure proper wages and working conditions for all covered workers regardless of immigration status.” Revised Memorandum of Understanding between the Dept. of Homeland Sec. and Labor Concerning Enforcement Activities at Worksites (Dec. 7, 2011).


Consequently, we request that DHS exercise discretion and terminate the deportation proceedings against the workers who were not criminally charged in the raids. DHS has broad prosecutorial discretion to enforce immigration law, and to exercise discretion to terminate deportation proceedings. According to DHS guidance, this is an appropriate circumstance to do so - and as early in deportation proceedings as possible. DHS has ruled that termination of deportation proceedings is appropriate when individuals are victims of certain crimes, or are victims of civil rights and labor violations. Memorandum, Prosecutorial Discretion: Certain Victims, Witnesses, and Plaintiffs (June 17, 2011). ICE has made clear that it is generally preferable to exercise such discretion as early in the case or proceeding as possible to preserve government resources.


The arrest and deportation of these low-wage workers is both out of line with the clear enforcement priorities of DHS and a gross misuse of government resources. The individuals arrested during the raids are hardworking members of the community. Their families have been severely impacted by the raids; some of the children of those arrested have been placed into the custody of Child Protective Services. DHS should not target contributing members of the community and their families when they have committed no crimes and are, in fact, the victims of unfair labor practices. Justice can be carried out in this case by terminating these workers' deportation proceedings and allowing the Department of Labor to investigate the allegations of abusive labor practices. We ask that DHS take these steps immediately.

Click here to sign the petition.

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