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Biden DOL Secretary Nominee Told California Labor Offices to Obstruct Immigration Enforcement

Julie Su speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing for her to be the Labor Secretary, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Julie Su speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing for her to be the Labor Secretary, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

By: Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

President Biden's nominee for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Julie Su, directed state employees to not comply with federal immigration law when she led California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement under former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Su issued two memos to her then-employees instructing them not to comply with requests made by ICE and Border Patrol agents, one in May and July of 2017. In her July 7, 2017, memo obtained by The Center Square, she wrote, "a worker's immigration status is irrelevant in determining whether an employer has violated state labor laws."

Federal law established by Congress states that illegal entry into the U.S. is a federal crime necessitating removal, with some exceptions. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas changed multiple aspects of how agents are to enforce or not enforce the law, prompting multiple states to sue.

Su also said in the memo, "there is no doubt 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 would cause "considerable harm" to workers.

Tom Homan, the former Acting Director of ICE in the Trump administration, criticized her nomination, saying it was another attempt by the Biden administration to not enforce federal immigration laws.

"Once again, this administration is taking steps to NOT enforce the laws enacted by Congress," he told The Center Square. "A major pull factor for illegal immigration is jobs. DHS Secretary Mayorkas has already forbid ICE from worksite enforcement operations and now he instructs DOL not to share information on companies that hire illegal aliens. This is disgusting and because of the fact the child trafficking and child labor is at an all-time high because of the open border, this will make it more difficult to find and save these children."

Prior to issuing the memo she expressed her opposition to federal immigration laws in a chapter she wrote in a 2000-era book about INS and the "criminalization of immigrant workers." In it, she wrote, "By attacking [illegal foreign nationals] for their immigration status, the U.S. government ensures that they remain beyond legal protections and justifies their exploitation."

She also criticizes Immigration and Naturalization Service agents in the chapter for enforcing federal immigration law. (INS was later merged into the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11.) She wrote, "The INS war against immigrant workers creates a wholly exploited and exploitable workforce that serves the interests of corporate profit. While people have been defined as undocumented and therefore 'illegal,' capital has escaped such characterization."

Su's nomination process has been met with heated opposition, some of which from her home state.

A coalition of Californians in a group, Stand Against Su, is urging the Senate to oppose her nomination because "Thousands of workers have already suffered thanks to Su's anti-business agenda." They argue in online and billboard campaigns as well as on their website that Sue oversaw the largest instance of taxpayer fund fraud in California history under Gov. Gavin Newsom as the Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

Under Newsom, the agency she oversaw paid $400 million in fraudulent unemployment payments to California inmates. The state later hired a former federal prosecutor as special counsel to investigate the largest employment fraud in California history. Initially, the fraud was believed to total $19 billion but later totaled $40 billion, including fraudulent payments made to death row inmates and deceased residents.

The state's unemployment insurance fund deficit is now over $18 billion, which led to the state taxing employers by up to several hundred dollars per employee to cover losses, which businesses call "the Su Tax."

Su also championed AB 5, the controversial law requiring independent contractors in California to be full-time employees. When enacted, it immediately led to significant layoffs, an exodus of contract workers, and a lawsuit filed by Lyft, Uber and others.

Su promised to audit and investigate businesses and workers who didn't comply, saying AB 5 "will be a model for the country."

She's also come under fire by House Republicans for not knowing how she voted on a key labor proposition in California.

When asked on June 7 by newly elected Rep. Kevin Kiley, a former state lawmaker who sued Gov. Gavin Newsom over lockdown policies, how she voted on Proposition 22, she said she didn't know. California voters overwhelmingly passed the ballot measure to exempt Uber and Lyft from AB 5. When testifying before the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, Su said she couldn't remember how she voted on it.

Kiley tweeted his line of questioning saying, "Julie Su originally claimed she couldn't remember how she voted on Prop. 22, a ballot measure put before Californians the most consequential labor ballot proposition to pass while Su was CA Labor Secretary. She later refused to answer the question. Giving false testimony to Congress should be disqualifying."

Su also appeared argumentative in her response to questions, prompting Rep. Virginia Foxx to ask, "Do you understand that failure to provide complete responses [to oversight requests] can result in the Committee taking compulsory measures?" Su replied, "yes," prompting Foxx to say, "Good! You know that word."

Kiley also pointed out that the U.S. is experiencing a 70% increase in child labor since 2018. At her Senate confirmation hearing in April, she was asked if she raised concerns about child labor to the White House prior to her nomination, she replied, "I don't know the answer to that question." When Kiley asked the same question, she replied, "I don't know."

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