ICE Was Not Meant To Be Cold: The Case for Civil Rights Monitoring of Immigration Enforcement at the Workplace

Professor Lee’s proposal addresses ICE’s all-too-often myopic focus on aggressive workplace-based immigration enforcement at the expense of its “secondary” consideration for employees’ workplace protections. In this Response Essay, I illuminate that Congress intended worker rights considerations to be central to the federal government’s workplace-based immigration enforcement scheme, despite ICE’s actions to the contrary. In other words, ICE was not meant to be “cold” with respect to employees’ workplace protections. In particular, I expose Congress’s view that employee civil rights are a fundamental aspect of IRCA’s scheme.

While Professor Lee’s extensive focus on the DOL is certainly justified, my focus on workplace protections that are not within the DOL’s purview brings an additional labor agency into the forefront of the immigration monitoring mix. Indeed, exposing Congress’s overlooked civil rights considerations illustrates that the main federal agency in charge of civil rights in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), should play a key role in monitoring ICE’s workplace-based enforcement actions. Moreover, an intensive focus on Congress’s intent with respect to employee civil rights also reveals that
the EEOC should play a complementary role in educating the public about employee civil rights in the immigration enforcement context.