HIGHLAND — The April 24 arrests of eight allegedly undocumented immigrants at a Highland apartment roofing job sparked public ire in Northwest Indiana.
But lost in the heat of that fiery debate were a host of labor and immigration laws that local and federal officials say can’t be ignored.
Local attorneys and protesters were quick to decry the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement for carrying out what essentially is central to the agency’s mission under President Donald Trump’s administration. Attorneys called the roundup unnecessary and an overreach.
Now Region labor officials question why other responsible parties for the hiring of illegal immigrants have faced no repercussions.
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said the U.S. Marshals Service, the lead agency, had targeted only one person for failing to register as a sex offender, but ICE — in assisting the marshals — ultimately arrested seven others at the job site on civil immigration violations.
“Why not go after the contractor?”
Dewey Pearman, executive director of the Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana, questioned why Homeland Security agents arrested the workers but appear to not have equally targeted the contractor or subcontractor responsible for hiring and paying the undocumented immigrants.
“When I saw the article, my first question was, ‘Why isn’t somebody not knocking on the door of the contractor, asking for certified payroll information, asking how they get paid?’” Pearman said. “I almost guarantee there is zero possibility that these individuals are being paid as they should be.”
Pearman added: “I am not critical of the workers. They have to do what they need to do to feed their families. They work very, very hard. It’s the employers that are committing a crime.”
In response to The Times inquiry, Neudauer said DHS could not comment or confirm the existence of an investigation, per department policy. However, he did say he would not classify the April arrests as a “worksite-related case.”
In such cases, possible sanctions for violating U.S. labor laws and U.S. criminal codes “can range from a simple warning, to administrative fines, to criminal prosecution of both the business and owners/managers, and can even involve debarring a business or person from doing business with the U.S. permanently,” Neudauer said.
By Lauren Cross for NWI TIMES
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