I think we'll all sleep better tonight, knowing that our government is vigilantly protecting us from sneaky foreigners who enter this country illegally and clean our Wal-Marts.
Federal investigators raided two Delaware Wal-Mart stores early Thursday, arresting six undocumented cleaning workers in Seaford and four in New Castle as part of a national sweep of 61 Wal-Mart stores that netted 300 workers, a federal official said.
The early-morning raids at Wal-Mart stores in 21 states were part of a federal crackdown on illegal immigrant labor. Investigators arrested workers from Eastern Europe, Central America and Asia, hired by contractors to fill cleaning crews.
I am delighted to read that federal agents conducted "early morning raids at Wal-Mart stores in 21 states."
But it's a bit disturbing to read about a "federal crackdown on illegal immigrant labor." Wouldn't it be better to crack down on the exploiters of illegal immigrant labor.
Here we have people chasing the American Dream. They're not freeloaders, they're working hard. And it's not like they're taking away high-paying quality jobs that we Americans would be envious of. These folks are at the very bottom of the pecking order: They are janitorial workers. Undocumented janitorial workers. Undocumented janitorial workers at Wal-Mart.
Our government gets wind that this powerless group of hard-working people is being exploited unjustly so what do we do? We arrest them all and arrange to have them deported back to whatever country they left because they decided they would be better off cleaning the floors at Wal-Mart on the graveyard shift than to stay there.
There are reasons, I'm sure, why such measures are necessary and prudent, but it still stinks.
The good news is that Wal-Mart executives — the exploiters of those undocumented workers — may be punished as well:
Agents also searched the Arkansas office of a Wal-Mart corporate executive, hauling several boxes of documents from the executive's office at the Wal-Mart headquarters. A sealed criminal complaint alleges that immigration violations took place with "direct knowledge" by Wal-Mart executives, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. Evidence includes taped conversations between Wal-Mart executives, they said.
Wal-Mart's initial response comes from Page 1 of the corporate spin handbook:
"No, we did not know," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said. "Our understanding was that these third-party agencies had only legal workers."
Claim ignorance and blame the subcontractor. This is how Disney and Nike excuse their sweatshops. It's how Union Carbide exempted itself from responsibility for mass death at Bhopal. But it's not going to work for Wal-Mart this time:
Employers who hire independent contractors directly also need to be sure those employees are legal. Companies convicted of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants face fines of up to $10,000 per worker.
"Ultimately, you are responsible," said Larry Lorber, a Washington, D.C., labor lawyer. "Employers do have an obligation to make sure people who work for them are legal to work in the U.S."