Immigration policy to target employers

Protesters at a rally of immigrant, labor, and faith communities hold signs in Madison Square Park in New York.

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KAI RYSSDAL: Today is May Day, also known as International Workers Day. It's honored mostly in the breach in this country. But tens of thousands of people in many cities, including Los Angeles, did rally today for immigrants' rights.

Immigrants' rights supporters: Obama escucha! Estamos en la lucha! Obama eschucha... So we can work and have a better place to live. We're just working for a better life. They're out there on the streets working for this country, you know. And we need to legalize all these people. That's basically why we're out here. We're from El Paso, Texas. So we came, made the drive out here and trying to support as much as possible.

After years of slow progress, they had something to celebrate. This week the Obama administration announced it's changing its immigration enforcement policy. Instead of going after undocumented workers, it'll be targeting employers instead. From the Marketplace Americas Desk at WLRN in Miami, Dan Grech reports.


Dan Grech: Immigration enforcement in recent years has largely meant SWAT-style raids. The raids broke up families and crippled businesses. They've become increasingly unpopular. So the Department of Homeland Security will now focus on the root cause of illegal immigration: jobs. Tamar Jacoby is president of ImmigrationWorks USA.

Tamar Jacoby: The plan here is to go after the unscrupulous employers, right? The ones who are deliberately breaking the law, exploiting workers. Top management that has relationships with smuggling rings and document forgers and that sort of thing.

Jacoby says employers once feared immigration officials tightening the noose of enforcement. No more.

Jacoby: Businesses are realizing more and more that restoring the rule of law in the workplace will be good for them. That it doesn't make sense to be investing either your family fortune or your brand name in a business that's standing on shaky ground legally.

Immigrant advocates emphasize that going after bad-apple employers still impacts undocumented workers and their families. Erik Camayd-Freixas is a professor at Florida International University.

Erik Camayd-Freixas: When you go after the sources of work, the job magnets, you're really going after the sources of food.

There are an estimated 7 million undocumented workers in the U.S. Experts say enforcement alone won't do much to dent that number. President Obama has pledged to take up comprehensive immigration reform later this year.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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