ICE: OSHA Ruse Was a 'Mistake'

Recent media reports stating that the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would not rule out the practice of impersonating OSHA to corral illegal aliens rekindled the debate on whether such practices could undermine OSHA's efforts to protect immigrant workers.

The OSHA ruse ICE staged a phony OSHA meeting last July to nab several dozen immigrant workers at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina has been criticized by safety advocates, and Department of Labor spokesperson Al Belsky reiterated that the agency does not condone such practices and is striving to maintain its credibility with the immigrant community.

ICE spokesperson Dean Boyd, however, told Occupationalhazards.com that media reports regarding the agency's willingness to use such gambits were presented out of context.

"As we have said, the uncoordinated use of an OSHA meeting as a ruse in July was a mistake," Boyd said. "It shouldn't have been done. The agency didn't coordinate with OSHA or gain permission. We have not used that type of ruse using OSHA personnel or an OSHA meeting since then."

What recent media reports have focused on is ICE's position that it will not completely rule out such ruses in the future.

"As a general rule we don't anticipate using such a ruse again with any regularity," Boyd said. "However and this is unfortunate were there some sort of national security threat or extreme situation I can't hypothesize what may occur in the future it might be something we would contemplate."

As a hypothetical example of such "a grave criminal matter or national security matter," Boyd said ICE might consider using the OSHA ruse "were there a terrorist working in a facility and the only way to lure that person to a location where he or she could be safely arrested were such a ruse."

"But, obviously, we would not go forward without the prior coordination and approval of OSHA and the Department of Labor," Boyd said.

Boyd added that ruses in general are a "tried and true law enforcement technique."

"Any given day there are police departments and law enforcement agencies throughout the country posing as teenagers on the Internet to locate and arrest pedophiles," Boyd said. "That's a ruse."

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