In addition to abolishing ICE, we also need to abolish capitalism. For really, what’s the difference?
First, the case. The worker, Jose Martin Paz Flores, had a job taping drywall for Tara Construction. He fell off a ladder and broke his femur in March 2017, an injury that required immediate surgery. But Paz — a father of five — could not get compensation for that injury because the company’s workers’ compensation insurance policy had lapsed. Paz is entitled to the benefits regardless of his immigration status.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration began investigating the accident. Advocates for Paz, and the Department of Labor, say Tara Construction CEO Pedro Pirez set about making his injured worker problem disappear by trying to get Paz deported.
“Paz would not have been arrested . . . if he had not reported his injury to Tara Construction and caused the OSHA inquiry to be initiated,” alleges the complaint, first reported by WBUR.
The suit alleges Pirez called a Boston police detective to tell him he was worried Paz had given a false name (Paz went by only part of his name, Martin Paz at Tara, but in a call with Pirez, the hospital identified him as Jose Flores). That detective, a relative of Pirez’s, gave the information to Sergeant Detective Gregory Gallagher, who is on the joint ICE/Boston Police task force. Gallagher alerted ICE.
The Labor Department complaint calls Pirez’s concern about a false name “pretextual.” Pirez’s attorney Daniel Dwyer says it was genuine, his call to the detective driven by fear that Pirez himself could get into trouble for employing a worker using a false name.
Whatever his motivation, attorneys and the Labor Department claim that, on May 10, 2017, Pirez lured the injured worker to Tara Construction’s South Boston office with an offer to help him meet his expenses. Paz was suspicious , his attorney said, but went to the meeting, where Pirez gave him $500 in cash.
As Paz left the office, a Boston police detective and immigration agents were waiting for him. They arrested him as his 2-year-old son sat screaming in his car. The complaint alleges Pirez coordinated the arrest with Gallagher. Pirez denied it, but Gallagher himself, and phone records and text messages, gave the lie to that claim: According to the complaint, the two were in frequent contact at the time of Paz’s arrest.
Pirez “didn’t intend for all of this to unravel the way it did,” Dwyer said. “He’s a nice guy.”
Paz, who fled Honduras 18 years ago, had been ordered deported in 2002, after he missed an immigration hearing. After his 2017 arrest he spent 12 days in jail, where his injured leg was shackled, and he was without pain medication for days.
For those who have now concluded that Paz and his family deserved everything they got because he was in the country without authorization, a note: Retaliating against employees for asserting their rights under federal labor law is illegal, regardless of the worker’s immigration status. If an employer can violate the rights of undocumented immigrants with impunity, he could violate those of others too. And if he can exploit and abuse immigrant workers without consequence, he is more likely to employ them over those with greater protections.
This case is so, so awful that the Trump-era Department of Labor is actually investigating it. That’s pretty bad. But we know over and over again that employers have their own employees deported to avoid unions or save on money. When you have a fascist agency engaged in ethnic cleansing, staffed with people really excited about deportation, you have an agency more than happy to help employers crush workers’ rights.