Suppose you wanted to piss off the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the AFL-CIO, the Department of Labor, and North Carolina officials all at the same time. First, become Michael Chertoff. (Note: if you're having trouble with the transformation, any DHS official that oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement will do.)
Ok, ready to go on? Second, set up a fake "mandatory" OSHA training session at a North Carolina military base and nab all the illegal immigrants who show up. That should do the trick!
"But wait!" cry my conservative brothers and sisters. "What's wrong with a sting operation? We use them on druggies and child pornographers and you're fine with that! These illegals are breaking the law, and can't complain when they get caught, be it by ruse or otherwise." (The advanced conservative commentator here will get extra points for displaying fluency in the current administration's Dialectic of Terror. Readers, you may attempt this yourself at home: try turning "Mexican janitor" into "grave threat to our National Securit-ah.")
Taking the drug sting as an example, imagine that officials offerd a fake free HIV/AIDS screening in areas of high drug use. Then, instead of testing blood samples for deadly viruses, the vials were quickly tested for drug traces, and offenders were rounded up. Leaving aside any privacy issues (I say "privacy issues" instead of "4th Amendment" because the latter is so passe), what would the net effect be? People who use drugs would stop getting tested for HIV. People's health and lives would be in danger. A serious social ill would be exacerbated in the name of sneaky police work.
That's what's going on here.
"We told them that the population of workers that we're dealing with is suffering the highest mortality rate and highest injury rate on the job," [AFL-CIO lawyer] Ms. Avendano said. "If immigration officials are going to use OSHA as a ruse, all they will do is reduce the trust of workers to go to OSHA with concerns about safety problems."
We've taken a few far out leaps in this blog post already (you're not still Chertoff, are you?), but I ask you to bear with me for one more wacky bit of speculation. Suppose some of the workers rounded up in this gambit were Mexicans. Associated Press, why would that matter?
In the bloc of states from Louisiana to Maryland, the Mexican [work-related] death rate averaged about 1 in 6,200 workers _ four times that of native-born workers and more than double the national average for Mexicans. Florida, North Carolina and Georgia were consistently among the deadliest states. Total deaths more than tripled from 27 in 1996 to 94 in 2002 in the South (excluding Texas), where some states saw Mexican populations triple to more than 100,000 workers.
So, in summation: workers at heightened risk of workplace death and injury are being taught to distrust the the government agency tasked with protecting workers. In all seriousness: that's just wrong. There are other ways to catch illegal workers, lots of 'em. I imagine that there are even other sting operation facades that don't pose the same risks. Who came up with this plan, anyway? It's just about the worst plan ever.
Last word to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official:
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, emphasized that ruses were standard law enforcement policy. "We're not going to rule out valid investigative techniques," he said.