Feds soft on illegal hiring

first_img“When we know there’s over 10 million people out there working with invalid Social Security numbers, 511 arrests doesn’t seem like a very good record,” Gallegly said. Carl W. Hampe, a former U.S. Senate counsel who helped draft the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, said Congress purposely created civil and criminal penalties and that both should be enforced. “There seems to be no excuse for not enforcing the law civilly,” he said, calling ICE’s new strategy of focusing only on criminal prosecutions “not consistent with the intent of Congress.” Glendora Rep. David Dreier, who has proposed a national Social Security card system that would enable employers to easily verify a worker’s employment status, said the statistics show the need for a better overall system. “As enforcement is stepped up, it’s also important that we improve the employment eligibility verification system, so that employers can feel confident they are making legitimate hiring decisions,” he said. “It would be far easier to root out the bad apples if we gave honest and hardworking business owners the tools necessary to follow the law.” [email protected] (202) 662-8731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“To say that their efforts are trivial are to grossly overstate their efforts,” said Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, a D.C.-based think tank that takes a hard line on illegal immigration. “Gee, maybe we don’t have a problem anymore,” said Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks, who long has advocated increased enforcement of immigration laws. With Congress poised this week to approve a massive immigration overhaul, lawmakers and President Bush have touted their dedication to beefing up security at the border and increasing fines for hiring illegal immigrants. But analysts said the fresh statistics make them skeptical the proposed tougher punishments against employers will even be enforced. “Until you get a reformed system, it’s going to be impossible to have the robust enforcement we all agree is appropriate,” said Marshall Fitz, director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. But Boyd noted criminal prosecutions have risen steadily since the agency changed tactics. Arrests rose 10 percent from 2004 to 2005, resulting in 127 criminal convictions last year. This year, the agency has made more than 2,000 arrests in connection with the employment of illegal immigrants. Seizures and forfeitures also have taken the place of fines, Boyd said. Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million last year after the government found it hired illegal immigrants for cleaning crews at its stores, and last month the owners of three sushi restaurants in Baltimore agreed to forfeit more than $1.1million after pleading guilty to hiring illegal immigrants. He noted the Wal-Mart settlement alone equaled eight years of civil penalties collected by the old Immigration and Naturalization Services. But with an estimated 7.2 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. work force, lawmakers and analysts said they think the administration’s enforcement efforts don’t go far enough. WASHINGTON – Despite the national spotlight on immigration reform, the federal government has abandoned financial sanctions as a way to punish employers for hiring illegal immigrants, choosing instead to pursue criminal penalties, according to officials and documents. Dean Boyd, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said fines against employers were ineffective as a deterrent to hiring illegal immigrants, with some companies simply considering the penalties a cost of doing business. So beginning in 2003, he said, the agency dramatically decreased the number of fines imposed, while beefing up its criminal prosecutions. “We have found that to be a far greater wake-up call,” to employers, Boyd said. “We’ve really changed the way we’re going about doing our business. We are taking a completely new strategy.” But critics blasted the agency for backing down from its efforts to discourage and penalize those who help undocumented workers. last_img read more