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With Immigration Reform Pending, Calls For An End To Workplace Audits

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Hundreds of people marched through downtown San Diego on Friday, calling on President Barack Obama to stop workplace immigration enforcement until an immigration reform bill is passed.

By Adrian Florido

Hundreds of janitors marched through downtown San Diego on Friday to protest workplace immigration enforcement.

— Hundreds of people marched through downtown San Diego on Friday, calling on President Barack Obama to stop workplace immigration enforcement until an immigration reform bill is passed.

Under the Bush administration, immigration officials often raided workplaces and arrested unauthorized workers. Under the Obama administration, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, has focused on employers — auditing their hiring records, fining them and forcing them to fire workers.

But now that a proposed immigration reform bill could legalize millions of people working illegally, unions want those audits to stop.

On Friday afternoon several hundred janitors marched through downtown San Diego. They were protesting recent audits of two janitorial companies. They say more than 500 janitors are going to be fired as a result.

“The janitors that come and clean your buildings would qualify for immigration reform when it gets enacted by Congress. So why do this now? It’s not necessary," said Sandra Diaz, who works with Service Employees International.

Diaz said many janitors now fear they could be deported. ICE has generally not initiated proceedings against workers simply for being identified in workplace audit.

In a statement, an ICE spokeswoman said these audits are routine, but would not confirm one had been conducted in this case.

The eight senators who drafted the proposed immigration reform bill hope that in the future, workplace audits won’t be as necessary. Their bill would require companies to use the federal E-Verify system to check work eligibility before hiring.

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