Chipotle firings: Obama admin. and company to blame

The Minnesota DailyâÄôs Jan. 24 editorial asserts that Chipotle was not to blame for firing hundreds of their workers in Minnesota last month, but that the real culprit is an Immigration and Customs EnforcementâÄôs I-9 Audit.

I agree that the main reason for the firings of hundreds of dedicated Latino immigrant workers who have given up to 12 years of their lives to Chipotle is the Obama administrationâÄôs decision to ramp up I-9 immigration audits nationwide.

Despite his rhetoric of supporting immigration reform, and despite the bizarre hallucinations of the xenophobic right that President Barack Obama is somehow soft on immigrants, under Obama, ICE continues to be an all-repression affair that is devastating Latino immigrant communities and families. These “Christmas firings” of hundreds of Chipotle workers is testament to that.

Many people, including myself, hoped Obama would scale back attacks on immigrants and would champion legalization for immigrant workers. After eight years of the Bush administrationâÄôs military-style immigration raids, change was necessary.

But change hasnâÄôt come. Deportations have increased under Obama. The administration plans to implement the awfully misnamed Secure Communities deportation program nationwide and even its partial implementation is already contributing to the dramatic rise in deportations and separation of families. And as the Daily editors pointed out, the hike in ICE I-9 audits around the country led to the firing of hundreds of Chipotle workers.

And they are not the first Twin Cities workers hit by I-9 audits. In 2009, 1,200 janitors with ABM were fired due to an I-9 audit, and another local cleaning company is facing the same thing now. Recently, 100 immigrant workers at two South St. Paul companies were fired due to I-9 audits.

I believe that as long as capital can cross borders freely, workers should also be able to do so, without apology and without penalty.

I think the fired workers are right to demand to be treated with dignity and to demand any compensation Chipotle still owes them.

I also donâÄôt want what happened to them to happen to anyone else. ThatâÄôs why immigrant rights activists demand that the Obama administration stop these I-9 audits.

This is an administrative decision that doesnâÄôt require a Congressional vote. Obama could halt the audits with a stroke of the pen. If he wants to show that he really supports the rights of immigrants to live and work in dignity and without harassment, he should do so.