ICE Cuts Deal with Unions to Avoid Enforcing Immigration Law

Unions are willing to go very far indeed to attract immigrants to their ranks. In a dramatic new development, unions are actually protecting immigrants who are potential union members against America’s own labor and immigration laws. A recent example involves Palermo’s Villa, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin frozen pizza manufacturer that sells to Costco.

The United Steelworkers had been trying to organize the largely Hispanic workforce at Palermo with the help of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group. In the midst of these organization efforts, Palermo faced an immigration audit which required the company to ask workers for proof of work eligibility. The company fired workers who did not comply, as federal law requires.

This might seem like a routine response to a federal immigration inquiry. Voces de la Frontera, however, claimed that the firings were an attempt by Palermo to stop the unionization drive. The union that organized the workers, an affiliate of United Steelworkers (USW), quickly called a strike. Soon, Palermo faced workers chanting “No justice, no pizza” picketing their factory. USW local unions across the country held “Slice of Justice” events in solidarity.

Workers striking over employment eligibility verification is astonishing. Even more astonishing is how the federal government responded to this labor dispute. After union officials complained about the firings to the Obama administration, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) halted its immigration investigation against Palermo. Was ICE satisfied that Palermo had resolved its immigration issues? That’s not it. An agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and the Labor Department actually requires this result. If a union and an employer are engaged in a dispute over organizing workers, ICE is barred from pursuing an immigration investment of that workplace under this agreement.


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