The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) voiced concern to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff over reports that the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intends to continue the practice of having its agents pose as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) personnel to round up illegal immigrants. The letter from ASSE President Jack H. Dobson, Jr., CSP, was also sent to Jonathan Snare, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, and John P. Clark, the acting assistant secretary of DHS for ICE.
“If the reports are true, ASSE insists that you intervene and make sure the impersonation of OSHA personnel ends,” Dobson wrote. “ASSE fully supports the responsible enforcement of this nation’s immigration laws. Doing it in ways that add to the risk of death, injury, and illness among this nation’s workforce is not a responsible way to do so.”
It was our understanding that ICE had indicated this egregious usurpation of another federal agency’s good name and positive contributions to occupational safety and health would be discontinued,” Dobson continued. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers were up 11% in 2004.
“Finding ways to reach out to immigrant workers with safety and health information and training that can help them avoid death, injury, and illness on the job has been an increasingly important concern of the safety and health community,” Dobson said. “Ironically, President Bush’s just-released FY 2007 budget calls for an increase of $2.6 million in OSHA’s compliance assistance budget to expand Hispanic worker outreach. ICE’s tactics will make this needed investment largely pointless due to the already high levels of distrust in government authority that many immigrants bring to this country.”
Last July, federal agents arrested 48 workers at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina on charges of being illegal immigrants after the agents tricked the workers into attending what was billed as a mandatory safety training session sponsored by the federal OSHA. Afterward, the federal Department of Labor, North Carolina and immigrant officials and ASSE criticized the deception, stating that it compromised workplace safety and health.