Federal agency working to stop companies that hire illegally

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Staff report
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it builds its worksite investigations on illegal aliens in stages:
– After receiving information that illegal aliens may be employed at a specific location, agents investigate the merits of that report.
Nina Pruneda, an ICE public affairs officer in Atlanta, says it’s important for people calling the federal tip line to give as much specific information as possible. “The more information, the better,” she says.
– If the intelligence is substantiated, ICE might conduct a worksite enforcement operation, arresting employees and collecting additional evidence such as computers and paperwork.
– The ICE investigators then comb through the data to determine whether a business owner or managers knowingly hired illegal immigrants.
– If that’s the case, ICE presents evidence to federal prosecutors, who might authorize the arrest of managers or company owners for criminal violations.
In its worksite enforcement policies, ICE says no “industry,” regardless of size type or location, is exempt from complying with the law. But the agency also says it focuses on employers “who are egregiously violating immigration laws, especially when those violations can compromise our nation’s security.”
In fiscal year 2007, ICE secured more than $30 million in criminal fines, restitutions and civil judgments in worksite enforcement cases.
The agency arrested 863 people in criminal cases and made more than 4,000 administrative arrests รณ a tenfold increase over five years. ICE said criminal sanctions have proved to be a much better deterrent to illegal employment that administrative fines.
In the current fiscal year, 850 individuals have been criminally arrested in worksite enforcement. Of those, 75 are owners, managers, supervisors or human resources employees facing charges of harboring or knowingly hiring illegal aliens.
The remaining 775 workers face charges that include aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud.