In July 2005 federal immigration officials impersonated OSHA safety trainers in a sting to lure and arrest illegal aliens working for subcontractors at an airforce base in North Carolina. See below for the first paragraphs of a New York Times article on that event.
The blog Confined Space now reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials reportedly plan to continue this tactic, according to Inside OSHA (paid subscription):
Immigration officials told immigration and labor groups during a closed-door meeting Jan. 30 that the department will continue to have its agents pose as officials from other agencies, including OSHA, to nab illegal immigrants at work sites, despite earlier signals the policy would be dropped. The meeting was set up to discuss last year’s controversial sting operation where ICE officials posed as OSHA employees, which had prompted an outcry from labor groups and concerns from OSHA.
OSHA was not present at the meeting.
ICE officials told attendees of the meeting that the department’s first priority is national security and public safety and they would not change their controversial sting policy, according to sources involved in the discussions. In a letter sent to [the National Immigrant Law Center] NILC last year, ICE officials said they would no longer continue the practice, however, they now say they view everything from a threat-based level and would continue to increase their work site enforcement of food production companies and industries related to national security, the sources say.
An Immigration Sting Puts 2 Federal Agencies at Odds
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE, New York Times, July 16, 2005
WASHINGTON, July 15 – The 48 immigrants thought they were attending mandatory safety training by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But it was not until they showed up to the meeting in Goldsboro, N.C., last week that they discovered they had been summoned for an altogether different reason.
Federal immigration officials had posted fliers telling immigrant workers for several subcontractors at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro that they had to attend a safety meeting. There was no meeting, however; instead there was a sting operation in which immigration officials arrested 48 people on charges that they were illegal immigrants from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Ukraine.
The action had one branch of the federal government speaking out against another. The United States Labor Department as well as North Carolina’s Labor Department on Friday criticized the sting, suggesting that it would make immigrant workers distrust safety officials just when safety agencies across the nation are stepping up efforts to reduce the disproportionately high injury rate among Hispanic workers.
Pam Groover, a spokeswoman for the federal labor department , said, ”This is not something we were involved in, and we do not condone the use of OSHA’s name in this type of activity.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the branch of the federal Labor Department that sets and enforces standards for workplace safety. Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which carried out the sting, said it was part of a stepped-up effort to crack down on illegal immigrants working at chemical plants, nuclear plants and other sensitive facilities.
Defending the use of ruses, Mr. Boyd said: ”The primary reason to use tactics like this in federal law enforcement is to get people in a location where they can be arrested without running all over the place. That helps ensure the safety of these immigrants, the agents, the air base and the community at large.”
Mr. Boyd said that as far as he knew this was the first time that immigration officials had enticed immigrants by representing themselves as OSHA officials.
”We certainly understand OSHA’s concerns about the use of their name,” Mr. Boyd said. ”We’re putting in place procedures to ensure appropriate coordination.”
Mr. Boyd said the immigration bureau also used a ruse to help gather 60 illegal immigrants who were arrested on May 20 at petrochemical plants in six states. He declined to discuss details, but he said immigration and prosecutors have long used subterfuges to bring in people for arrest.