Fresh Raids Target Illegal Hiring

Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

The Wall Street Journal (05/02/12) Jordan, Miriam

The Department of Homeland Security has ordered hundreds of companies to submit their hiring records in an effort to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.

The first “silent raids” of the year haven’t been publicly announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency that conducts these raids, but an ICE spokesperson recently confirmed that as of March 29, the agency had notified 500 businesses “of all sizes and types” to submit I-9 employment-eligibility forms and other documents.

“These inspections will determine whether or not the businesses are complying with their employment-eligibility verification requirements,” said ICE Deputy Press Secretary Gillian Christensen. “No one industry is targeted, nor is any one industry immune from scrutiny.”

The government doesn’t divulge the names of the companies under investigation. Since January 2009, the Obama administration has audited at least 7,533 employers suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, and has imposed about $100 million in administrative and criminal fines, which is more audits and penalties than were imposed during the last four years of the Bush administration. The largest penalty so far was levied against HerbCo International Inc., a Washington state supplier of organic herbs, which agreed to pay $1 million in fines for employing illegal immigrants and then rehiring some of those workers after an ICE audit last year. The audits are most visible when conducted against high-profile fast-food chains, hotels and agricultural businesses, but inspections also have affected light manufacturers, financial-services firms and the garment industry.

“The expanding rate and reach of I-9 audits is starting to chip away at the perception that only the most egregious employers are at risk of an enforcement action by ICE,” said Julie Myers, who was the chief of ICE under the Bush administration. “Companies in all industries need to be vigilant.”

However, some industries are extremely reliant on illegal immigrant workers, particularly the agricultural industry.

“An audit would force us to fire 70% to 80% of our workers,” said Fred Leitz, a fourth-generation Michigan farmer employing 250 seasonal workers. “The people working the fields and harvesting the crops that feed our nation need work authorization.”

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