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INS Tactics Chasing Away Trust

October 11, 1987

If employers were wondering how Harold Ezell, western regional commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, was going to handle the worker's documentation provisions of the new immigration law, they got their answer Tuesday when the INS raided a Santa Ana furniture manufacturer.

Despite INS overtures to the business community asking its cooperation, raids that disrupt some businesses and cost them thousands of dollars in lost production go on. At the same time, workers whom the INS is urging to apply for amnesty are still being chased off their jobs in raids that harass many Latinos, including native-born and naturalized citizens.

While the immigration law may have changed, Ezell's defiant tactics haven't; they continue to emphasize the enforcement powers of the INS rather than its service function. That was disappointingly evident Tuesday at the B.P. John Furniture Co. in what was the largest raid on a Southern California employer since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 became law.

One of the law's provisions, aimed at cutting off the flow of illegal residents coming here to find jobs, requires employers to obtain identification and proof of work eligibility from everyone they hire. Both worker and boss must sign forms on the document's validity. Anyone who knowingly hires illegal residents faces fines and criminal penalties.

Employers and immigration rights workers expected the INS to inspect those forms routinely to see whether the law was being followed and consult with workers and employers if there were any questions or suspicions about any papers on file. That's a reasonable expectation.

That hope, however, overlooked one point. The INS operation under Ezell has too often been short on reason and good sense. The prevailing attitude remains insensitive and callous. And the sweeps breed growing anger, fear and distrust--hardly the atmosphere conducive to promoting the cooperation needed to make the new immigration law work as intended.

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