07.07.09

Immigration Enforcement

Posted in Policy, worksite investigation at 8:47 pm by Lalita Haran

Immigration enforcement policy is changing. Janet Nepolitano, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in her recent instructions to the agencies calls it “sensible” not “blind” enforcement. The policy shift focuses on enforcing employer compliance of immigration laws instead of just deporting the unlawful workers.

This change is a sign that the government is paying attention to public objections that enforcement is directed only against unauthorized workers but not against their employers who benefit from such work. Worksite audits, by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), over 650 planned this year as opposed to about 500 last year, have increased. However, ICE audits are not welcome by the employers nor the pro immigrant organizations.

The pro immigrant groups frequently blamed the system because it excused the employer who often encouraged unauthorized employment to benefit from paying lower wages but went after the undocumented workforce who live in the shadows often afraid of asserting their rights. The threat of audit and consequential fines against the erring employer works as a good deterrent against violation of immigration or labor laws and should prevent exploitation of unauthorized foreign labor.

Consider the following:
E-verify participation, the electronic employment verification system, is considered a defense to the honest errors detected by the audit. It is pointed out that the employment verification form I-9 is so short but carries with it lengthy government instructions indicating complexity of the process. Besides, the electronic verification system itself is not free from flaws although the government claims to update it frequently.

Employers participating in the e-verify should follow certain safeguards to avoid charges of adopting discriminatory practices. At times, an over cautious employer asks that the foreign worker produce certain immigration documents completely unnecessary and burdensome. All this is done in an attempt to protect the business. Although ICE audits signify a welcome change towards enforcing employer compliance much remains to be seen as to what tools will be offered the employer so that it could protect its business despite hiring foreign workers