ICE Increases Use of Civil Fines for Undocumented Workers

The Department of Homeland Security has stepped up its enforcement against employers who hire undocumented workers and it may end up costing seventy-one nursery workers their jobs, the Miami Herald reports. The nursery’s business is being hit hard by an action that could cost them half their workers. “The human toll is the real problem. Our company’s heartsick- we’re losing members of our family. Some have been here as long as we have, 22 years or more. They’re raising kids, buying homes and cars, paying taxes,” said an emotional company representative. The workplace crackdown reflects the Obama administration’s heightened emphasis on employers.

In Northern California, 192 worksite enforcement cases were initiated in 2009 and 2010, and an estimated $900,000 in fines have been levied on the region’s employers during the Obama administration. “Our goal in these cases is to determine whether a business is complying with the law,” says Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The new focus reduces the need for large-scale enforcement actions where employees are rounded up and arrested. She said the administration has directed ICE to use all the enforcement tools at its disposal when investigating businesses and workplaces that employ illegal immigrants, and to increase the use of civil fines. Apparently, from 2008 through July 31, 2010, ICE levied more than $4 million in fines nationally and last year criminally charged a record 180 employers, managers and supervisors.

The fact of the matter is that this one-sided attempt at enforcing the nation’s immigration laws is akin to creating a vacuum that leads to a higher demand for illegal immigrants as businesses have to cope with reduced revenue to fill in the positions that have been left open because of the employees they had to fire, which are likely to then be filled by a new batch of undocumented workers since they could not afford the cost of hiring legal ones. Although this does not reflect every business’ situation, it is a severely common one given the economic conditions our country faces. For some of these companies, it may be a question of defying the law or closing shop. That is why we believe that it is an unfair dilemma. While we await a comprehensive immigration reform law that acknowledges the undocumented workers already living here and offers them a path to attain a legal status- we shall continue to witness the wreckage left by ICE’s pursuit of our failed immigration policy.

If you are experiencing this problem as an employer or an employee, we encourage you to seek the advice of an immigration attorney.

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