Obama's Immigration Policy May Look to Bellingham

The immigrant rights group OneAmerica kicked off a campaign for immigration reform at a City Hall press conference today, setting the stage for a package of initiatives expected by the Obama administration. One speaker at the event was Leandro Barranco-Morales, a worker detained in the raid at Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham last February--the first such raid after President Obama took office.

After Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she didn't know about the raid, and ordered a review, all of the detained workers were released pending an investigation of Yamato. But deportation proceedings had already started against seven workers, including Barranco-Morales, and they are still scheduled to be removed from the country once the Yamato investigation is complete. Their lawyer, Lesley Irizarry-Hougan, wrote a letter this week to Esther Olavarria, Homeland Security's deputy assistant secretary for policy, asking her to reopen their cases.

At the press conference, Barranco-Morales, wearing a white-T-shirt and jeans, talked about how workers were surrounded during the raid "as if we were terrorists."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is proceeding with its investigation of Yamato. In April, ICE carried out a search warrant at the 75,000-square-foot engine manufacturing plant. Yamato could well be a test case of Obama's immigration policy. His administration has said it is more interested in prosecuting employers that flout immigration laws than workers. Will the president use Yamato to make the point?

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