When she was California’s Labor Commissioner, Julie Su directed department staff to not cooperate with federal immigration agents if they appeared at any commission office looking for illegal aliens.
Su’s 2017 memo also strongly implies that Commission employees should actively help an illegal alien avoid having to have any potential contact with an agent:
“For example, under these protocols (as well as current practice), staff may of course escort or show a worker to any part of our office (including behind closed doors), for the purpose of allowing the worker to obtain information about labor laws, to participate in one of our proceedings, or to be interviewed by a Deputy or Attorney. These protocols also make clear that staff should not give certain information (as noted above) to an agent.”
The entire memo can be found in PDF form at the end of this story.
As Su could shortly become the federal Labor Secretary, her past encouragement to assist people to violate federal law seems rather problematic.
“She was actively preventing federal law from being enforced,” said Ira Mehlman, media director of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Mehlman noted it is illegal – under federal law – for illegal aliens to be employed. In other words, the possible future Labor secretary was assisting people who are not allowed to be part of the labor force.
“These sorts of statements should disqualify her from being Labor Secretary,” Mehlman said.
The memo came to light after Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) committee member Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) asked Su about it during her recent confirmation hearing. Su said she could not recall the details of the memo and did not have a copy, forcing the committee to obtain the information directly from the state Labor and Workforce Development Department which Su ran during the pandemic.
“If you’ve subverted implementation of federal law in the past, that is of great concern if you now aspire to head a federal department. It should be disqualifying. You don’t get to pick and choose the laws you implement and enforce,” said HELP committee ranking member Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
Su’s leadership of the department that includes the EDD – which lost about $40 billion to fraud and still owes the federal government nearly $17 billion in loans it took to cover legitimate and fake unemployment benefits – has been widely panned, with senators like Mitt Romney (R-UT) saying her failure in California alone disqualifies her from being in President Biden’s cabinet.
The memo pays lip service to things like the law and laughably calls the directive non-political – “Core constitutional principles form the basis of these protocols, which are not aimed at interfering with the enforcement of federal immigration laws, nor are they political in nature.”
The reason given for it and the specific actions it details would seem to contradict those claims.
“There is no doubt that the presence of federal immigration agents in our offices would have a substantial chilling effect on the willingness of workers to report labor law violations and to participate in our enforcement activities,” reads the memo. “If a worker believed that coming to our offices could potentially make her the target of ICE enforcement, she would most likely not step forward in the first place to assist with our enforcement efforts.”
One of the tactics the memo:
“Labor Commissioner staff should not voluntarily permit a federal immigration agent to enter any part of our office. Staff should ask the agent to leave our office, including the waiting room, and inform the agent that the Labor Commissioner does not consent to entry or search of any part of our office. Doors that lead to the inner office suite, and office doors that are generally locked or shut, should not be voluntarily opened for the agent.”
For background, the Labor Commission operates numerous offices throughout the state at which workers who feel they have been abused, improperly paid, etc. can file complaints and have those complaints adjudicated.
At the time of the memo, Su told the Los Angeles Times she suspected that employers being accused of underpaying employees tipped off federal immigration agents about the status of the workers. “We should not enable unscrupulous employers who use immigration status as a vulnerability to retaliate unlawfully against a worker who is seeking our protection,” Su said in 2017.
ICE vehemently denied the accusation, but that did not stop Su from ordering agents be barred from the state offices – even including the waiting room – unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
The ramifications for Su’s nomination are as yet unclear, but as it was hanging by a knife edge anyway it almost certainly will not help. While the return of Dianne Feinstein to semi-active duty benefits Su (one more vote,) there are at least four other Democrats who have yet to publicly declare their support for Su and she can only lose two of them.
And one of those senators is Arizona independent Kyrsten Sinema who could be very worried about being seen to support a practically “open-borders” Labor secretary in advance of her re-election campaign next year.
The full senate vote on Su’s confirmation has yet to be scheduled.julie_su_memo
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