Pesky Employees Demanding 'Paychecks'? There's An ICE For That, Maybe!
Just in case you thought there's something awfully hinky about the Trump administration's war on immigrants, here's one more suggestive anecdote: In New York, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents scooped up an undocumented Chinese worker while he was in the process of testifying in a deposition against his former employer, who he says owes him $200,000 in back wages. Isn't that, as Dana Carvey in drag used to say, convenient?
Add this one to the distinct lack of any charges -- at least not yet -- against the seven chicken processing plants in Mississippi that ICE raided earlier this month, resulting in arrests of nearly 700 undocumented workers. Why, it's almost enough to make a cynic think the goal is to help rotten employers get away with sleazy business practices, it is. Somebody on Fox ought to complain about what a poor moral example Donald Trump is setting for the nation's impressionable capitalists.
The New York case is a doozy, reports WNYC. Xue Hui Zhang is suing his former employer, a now-defunct Albany restaurant, for $200,000 in back wages for the time he worked there, from 2008 to 2015. You'd think that any place that adept at allegedly robbing its own employees would have been able to make a go of it.
Last Monday, attorney Adam Dong said he was accompanying Zhang as he gave his deposition at the office of the defense counsel near Albany. The arrest happened when they broke for lunch.
"We got out of the car and we walked toward the diner entrance," Dong recalled. There, he said, five or six ICE agents "stopped us and said, 'Mr. Zhang can you come with us?'"
He said he asked the ICE agents why Mr. Zhang was stopped and was told they had an outstanding warrant. He's now being held at a detention center in Buffalo.
Dong says Zhang thinks the former employer called ICE on him to make the lawsuit go away.
It is not difficult to infer ICE was there because someone tipped them off, they were waiting for Mr. Zhang to come out to arrest him.
Heavens no, insists Matthew J. Mann, the attorney for the restaurant. Mann says he had "no first-hand knowledge of the facts" of the arrest, and says his first response was to ask if, pretty please, the deposition could continue at the first jail Zhang was taken to. He also said the employers assured him they didn't drop a dime on Zhang.
Zhang's lawyers say he shouldn't have been arrested at all, since the Department of Labor has a a memorandum of understanding with ICE that should prevent detention of anyone suing an employer for labor violations. Attorney John Troy said the whole point of the agreement is to "ensure that undocumented employees can pursue their labor law rights without the fear of interference from ICE" and to "prevent what happened in this case, which is employer retaliation, and ICE being the assistant to the retaliation."
Well, sure, man, and the purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency used to be protecting the environment, but times change, don't they? Since that memorandum is still what some laughingly call "legally binding," Troy said he'll argue that Zhang should be released from detention.
For its part, ICE says everything is perfectly by the book here. Zhang was ordered deported in 2003, and the agency just happened to find him in a parking lot while taking a break from a deposition against his grifty former employer. A spokesperson offered one of those comments that deftly avoided the question of whether ICE was tipped off by the former boss:
Prior to his arrest, ICE made numerous attempts to coordinate Mr. Zhang's removal. He is presently in ICE custody pending his removal from the United States.
The spokesperson also insisted the memorandum of understanding wasn't even worth mentioning in this case:
"Nothing in this MOU or its implementation is intended to restrict the legal authority of ICE" or the Department of Labor, adding. "ICE did nothing in violation of this memo."
Translation: We can do what we want, because the only part of "illegal" this administration understands involves people without papers. Employers who fail to pay them are just savvy business people who refuse to let burdensome regulations and rules get in the way of making their businesses great. You don't like it, you can go to some shithole socialist country like France.
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