Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On August 28, 2018, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – a federal agency under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that enforces laws governing border control – arrested 160 workers on federal immigration violations for unlawfully working in the United States while executing criminal search warrants in North Texas, according to a news release from ICE.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – the federal law enforcement agency responsible for upholding the laws established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) – received information that many of the employees at a trailer-manufacturing business called Load Trail were using fraudulent identification documents and that the company may have knowingly hired illegal aliens.
“Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses,” Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, HSI Dallas, which oversees 128 counties in North Texas, and the state of Oklahoma, said in the news release. “In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere poised for exploiting their illegal workforce.”
All of the immigration status violators arrested will be interviewed by ICE staff to record any medical, sole-caregiver or other humanitarian situations. Based on these interviews, ICE will determine if those arrested remain in custody or are considered for humanitarian release. In all cases, all illegal aliens encountered will be fingerprinted and processed for removal from the United States.
The IRCA requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of individuals they hire to help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and lawful U.S. residents, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that unlawfully hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security. Unauthorized workers often use stolen identities of legal U.S. workers, which can damage everyday life.
In late July 2018, ICE announced the results of a two-phase nationwide operation that served I-9 audit notices to more than 5,200 U.S. businesses. From July 16 to July 20, 2018, the second phase of the operation, HIS served 2,738 notices of inspection (NOIs) and made 32 arrests. During the first phase of the operation, from January 29 to March 30, 2018, HSI served 2,540 NOIs and made 61 arrests.
After receiving the NOIs, employers must produce their company’s Form I-9s within three business days, after which ICE conducts an I-9 inspection for compliance. Employers not in compliance with the law can face civil fines and possible criminal prosecution if they knowingly violated the law. Unauthorized workers encountered during these audits are subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country.
“This is not a victimless crime. Unauthorized workers often use stolen identities of legal U.S. workers, which can significantly impact the identity theft victim’s credit, medical records and other aspects of their everyday life,” Derek N. Benner, Acting Executive Associate Director for HIS, stated in a news release from ICE, adding that HSI is carrying out its commitment to increase the number of I-9 audits.
From October 1, 2017, through July 20, 2018, HSI opened 6,093 worksite investigations and made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests. In FY17, businesses were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines, and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines, including one company whose financial penalties represented the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.
In May 2018, ICE announced that HSI had already doubled the amount of ongoing worksite enforcement investigation cases in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 compared to FY 2017. ICE reported that from the beginning of FY 2018 on October 1, 2017, through May 4, 2018, HSI opened 3,510 worksite investigations. For FY 2017 – lasting from October 2016 through September 2017 – HSI opened 1,716 worksite investigations.
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