A colleague and friend of mine from the New School directed me to this special report today. Apparently the cleanup site of the oil hemorrhaging into the gulf is the perfect place for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials to pick up undocumented workers. Seriously:

These Hispanic workers have been accused of taking away jobs from longtime Louisiana residents, and the tension has grown as fishing and tourism jobs dry up, leaving idle workers to compete for jobs on the oil spill clean-up effort.

[Temple H. Black, a spokesman for ICE in Louisiana] explained that ICE and Border Patrol began to monitor the response efforts shortly after job sites were formed following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began on April 20 and has yet to be contained.

ICE, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, visited two command centers, one in Venice and the other in Hopedale, twice in May. ICE agents arrived at the staging areas without prior notice, rounded up workers, and asked for documentation of their legal status, according to Black. …

There were no arrests at either site, according to the ICE spokesman. But he said if undocumented workers had been discovered, they “would have been detained on the spot and taken to Orleans Parish Prison.”

I know the situation is rough in the gulf—every day, the news just gets worse—so I wonder if policing the people who have taken on the dangerous, toxic task of sopping up oil is a smart use of resources. Maybe we could give the clean up crews respirators and HazMat gear rather threaten them with deportation? And yes, the lack of protective gear is an issue. What’s worse, workers who do bring their own gear are being terminated. Via RaceWire:

Fishermen who’ve been hired to do cleanup and containment work in BP’s Gulf Coast oil spill have been told they would be fired for using their own respirators or safety equipment that wasn’t provided by BP, reported Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a Louisana-based environmental group.

“It appears that, despite the obvious potential for exposure to respiratory toxins, BP does not consider respiratory protection necessary equipment,” said Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper in LEAN’s statement. “And even so to prevent the fishermen from using their own respiratory protection if they chose to do so is deeply troubling.”

This news comes on the heels of reports last week that ten cleanup workers had to be hospitalized after reporting dizziness, nausea and difficulty breathing. The news prompted the Coast Guard to demand 125 commercial fishing boats participating in containment work to return to shore.