Fulfilling a pledge President Obama made during his campaign, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last month it is shifting its immigration enforcement efforts to target employers that hire undocumented workers, rather than targeting the workers.
The new emphasis should put employers on notice to pay close attention to their employment eligibility verification processes. Failing to comply can carry a high price.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano issued the new guidance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), directing the agency to focus its resources on “the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.” The goal, the statement said, is “to target the root cause of illegal immigration.”
According to immigration attorney Greg Siskind, the new ICE guidance signals an evolution of immigration enforcement policy, while laying the groundwork for a more fundamental change. “The White House seems poised to keep up the pressure on business while it pushes for a major immigration reform package that is intended to legalize much of the illegally present workforce,” Siskind said.
DHS has been ramping up the use of criminal charges as a worksite enforcement tool for the past five years. In 2002, DHS arrested only 25 people on criminal charges following worksite investigations. By last year, that number had jumped to more than 1,100.
However, only 135 of those arrests were employers. DHS says that number will probably increase with the agency’s new focus on employer enforcement.
Employer training: On June 11, HR Specialist will present a special webinar, Immigration Compliance Update 2009, hosted by Greg Siskind. Register at www.theHRSpecialist.com/events.
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