AIHA Comments on Immigration Sting

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has sent a letter to Michael Chertoff, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expressing concern and opposition to recent reports that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) of the department may continue their impersonation of OSHA personnel to target illegal workers.

Last July, ICE agents targeted illegal immigrant workers at an Air Force Base in North Carolina by posing as OSHA representatives and holding a fake OSHA meeting. Immediately upon conclusion of the sting, the Department of Labor and OSHA announced their opposition to such tactics and the threat to the effectiveness of state and federal health and safety efforts. When asked about this incident during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in October, Chertoff was quoted as saying, "I think that was a bad idea, and I've directed that we not do it again."

However, reports are filtering back that in a closed meeting on Jan. 30, ICE officials told immigration and labor groups that ICE would continue to have its agents pose as officials from other agencies, including OSHA, to nab illegal immigrants at work sites.

The association says it hopes such a report is incorrect and that ICE is not planning on again using tactics that will have a detrimental effect on the health and safety of all workers, including illegal immigrants.

For workers who already may mistrust government and are afraid to raise safety and health issues or complain; this would be another reason for immigrants to keep quiet. The result could be more injuries and fatalities among immigrant workers, who already suffer a disproportionate share. Actions like this by ICE only serve to undermine OSHA's efforts to reach out and address the serious health and safety problems that immigrant workers face in their workplaces, according to AIHA.

The full text of AIHA's letter is available at www.aiha.org under "Government Affairs."

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