ICE Worksite Enforcement of U.S. Immigration Laws

Under the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, there was little deterrent, if any, for U.S. employers to stop hiring illegal aliens for the purposes of employment with their companies.  The only punishment levied by the INS against employers who hired illegal aliens under this country’s prior Immigration Laws was administrative sanctions or fines. Many of those U.S. employers against whom the fines were levied did not pay them in a timely manner, had the fines reduced or simply did not pay them. As a result, there was little deterrent for these U.S. employers to discontinue their practice of hiring illegal aliens.

However, this leniency is now a thing of the past. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was established in 2003 to combat, among other things, the hiring of illegal aliens by these U.S. employers. Now, stiff sanctions and penalties are imposed upon any U.S. employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. For instance, the ICE is now pursuing charges against U.S. employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. These charges include knowingly hiring illegal aliens, money laundering and harboring illegal aliens. Money laundering is a felony for which a maximum 20-year prison sentence could be imposed.  Harboring illegal aliens is also a felony with a potential 10-year prison sentence. Since criminal charges could be brought against U.S. employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, this may be a more effective deterrent than mere monetary sanctions.

To illustrate the ICE’s determination in imposing stiffer sanctions upon employers who do not follow our country’s immigration laws, you can look no further than the increase in arrests by the ICE between 2002 and 2006. In 2002, the number of criminal arrests in worksite enforcement cases numbered 25. By 2006, this number jumped to 716. ICE investigations of workplace violations are focused upon sites whose classification, if infiltrated by unauthorized workers, could threaten national security. This would include chemical and power plants and transportation hubs.  However, the ICE also conducts vigorous investigations at more traditional places of employment. 

There have been many major ICE worksite enforcement cases over the past couple of years that have led to criminal prosecution.  Some of the companies targeted included a meat processing facility, a restaurant, a pallet services company, a housing development subcontractor and a hotel chain. In many of those cases, the owners of those companies were charged with criminal wrongdoing. Many of those companies knowingly accepted fraudulent documents produced by the illegal aliens for the purposes of securing employment. The bottom line is this: if you are a U.S. employer who typically hires foreign workers, you can be sure that the ICE will be knocking at your door in the near future if you voluntarily choose to hire illegal aliens who cannot produce authentic evidence of U.S. citizenship (i.e., birth certificate, U.S. Passport, Certificate of Naturalization) or employment authorization (i.e., Green Card or Work Authorization under a valid Non-Immigrant Visa Category). 

Rob C. Tonogbanua, Esq.
Dickie McCamey & Chilcote, P.C.
http://www.dmclaw.com

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