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December 26, 2007

DHS: Crackdown on Illegal Employers is Forthcoming, Really

The Washington Post reports that, though immigration raids and arrests were up this past year, there have been few prosecutions of employers of illegal labor. There were 92 arrests of employers this year and 4,900 or so arrests of illegal aliens and those who provided them with fake documents. Only 17 firms paid criminal fines or made other forfeitures.

Democrat Claire McCaskill is leading the charge on this, while DHS weakly defends itself:

"I know what it takes to get a criminal case," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a former state prosecutor and member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. ". . . Why is it that hundreds of bar owners can be sanctioned in Missouri every year for letting somebody with a fake ID have a beer, but we can't manage to sanction hundreds of employers for letting people use fake identities to obtain a job?"

[...]

ICE Director Julie Myers, who served as chief of staff to Chertoff when he led the Justice Department's criminal division from 2001 to 2003, wrote in response to McCaskill's criticism that it takes time to build criminal cases, and that DHS's tougher criminal enforcement approach is "fundamentally different" from the weak administrative fines and pinprick raids that resulted from a congressional backlash against actions against corporations in the late 1990s.

In an interview, agency spokesman Brandon Alvarez-Montgomery said ICE focuses on "egregious" violators whose business models rely on hiring illegal immigrants, especially those whose practices may promote fraud or border breaches.

McCaskill called such arguments an excuse for not punishing big-money business and farm interests that want cheap labor, effectively penalizing law-abiding business owners and exploiting illegal immigrant workers. "The reality simply doesn't match their rhetoric," said McCaskill, who began pressing ICE to release the employer statistics in September.

It sounds like DHS wants to say that more criminal prosecutions are coming, it just takes time (and money) to get them prepared. I suspect that DHS didn't get all that serious about employer punishment until after the failed attempt at comprehensive immigration reform this summer. As Secretary Chertoff says:

In a year-end review this month, Chertoff added that the enforcement crackdown will "make a down payment on credibility with the American people." He said Americans' "profound public skepticism" about government efforts to control illegal immigration helped kill a broad, White House-backed overhaul in the Senate this summer.

To his credit, Chertoff seems to be aggressively pursuing the no-match letter scheme that has so far been blocked by the courts. On the other hand, and as I wrote last week, strict employer sanctions are having a positive effect in Oklahoma and Arizona. Will the feds get the picture? (This is a rhetorical question, folks).


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:37 AM

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