Immigration Enforcement: Small Solutions Have a Big Impact

Immigration Enforcement: Small Solutions Have a Big Impact

A small group of 15 auditors at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may soon have a substantial impact on worksite compliance. ICE recently announced the creation of a new unit to help combat the employment of illegal aliens. The Employment Compliance Inspection Center complements the Obama administration’s strategy of investigating employer violations of illegal hiring by analyzing I-9 and tax data of large companies suspected of violations to help ICE field offices pinpoint cases to pursue. ICE has announced plans to audit the records of approximately 1,000 businesses in the coming months. This program will complement the operational employment verification programs (e.g., U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) E-Verify) and investigative compliance programs across the Department.

This approach is, in part, a response to criticism that local field offices did not have the manpower or tools to investigate larger companies and that ICE has predominantly brought recent cases against smaller businesses. It further supplements the primarily voluntary employment verification programs (e.g., E-Verify, ICE IMAGE) by giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the data to support stricter compliance actions against businesses who fail to meet established standards.

As with any new enforcement and compliance tool, there is backlash from the private sector. They are already raising complaints that these investigations are invasive and unfairly take advantage of businesses who believe they are in compliance, but still have illegal workers on their books. Subsequent corrective action could result in immediate termination of portions of the employer’s workforce and/or the leveeing of fines, both having a negative impact on the company’s production and financial viability. Furthermore, some have expressed concerns that given the current Federal budget crisis, this is not the right time or place to expend limited resources (e.g., estimates say the team will cost $1M in the first year).

ICE should continue to use all available tools at its disposal to combat illegal hiring. Using inspection and monitoring tools to drive companies to engage with compliance programs enhances DHS’s ability to enforce the immigration laws already on the books. The benefits of this and similar programs not only outweigh the negatives, but also provide value in other areas:

  • Increases the leveeing and collection of fines associated with these violations. In 2010, employers paid nearly $7M, a seven-fold increase in fines from the year before. With the additional audits, collections could reach $25M in the next year. These funds would not only pay for the unit itself, but also support other mission areas. Examples of this model exist within DoJ and Health and Human Services.  Their compliance task forces successfully collect millions of dollars each year, which offset any costs of operating the units
  • Provides additional resources to enable DHS to expand it’s monitoring beyond the primarily voluntary employment verification programs
  • Identifies better data analysis techniques and applications that could support other mission needs. For example, E-Verify’s Monitoring & Compliance Branch could leverage lessons from ICE to automate its processes to more proactively pick up on new trends and behaviors
Immigration

Contributors

Barbara White |

Barb works at Arc Aspicio as the Chief Strategy Officer and has proven strength in planning and managing business and technology solutions for the government. She blends innovative strategic thinking and tactical implementation with an emphasis on transformation, information sharing, immigration and transportation security.

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