ICE Wants to Be Like IRS: Audit and Arrest Business Owners Who Employ Undocumented Immigrants

Immigration officials are cracking down on businesses that employ foreigners, according to new data released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE opened audits on 2,282 employers to make sure their employees were legally allowed to work in the U.S. between October and May of 2018, according to data released Monday. The numbers are up significantly from the 1,360 audits opened during the last fiscal year, between October 2016 and September 2017.

Workplace arrests also increased significantly, according to the data. Between October and May, ICE made 594 criminal and 610 administrative worksite-related arrests, up from the 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests made the previous year.

The new numbers were released just months after ICE publicly announced that it would begin heavy enforcement of a 1986 law that requires “employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of their employees and created criminal and civil sanctions for employment related violations,” according to ICE.

“Our worksite enforcement strategy continues to focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law, and the use of I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law,” said acting executive associate director for ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Derek N. Benner, comparing the audits to the work the IRS does. “Worksite enforcement protects jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminates unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security.”

Benner has plans for another round of workplace audits this summer, pushing the total number to more than 5,000, according to the Associated Press.

Ultimately, Benner said he’d like to audit up to 15,000 workplaces for illegal or improperly documented immigrants each year and create a Employer Compliance Inspection Center with at least 250 dedicated auditors.

Experts worry that these raids could create a culture of fear that stop immigrants from finding legitimate jobs and hurt surrounding communities. “I’m most concerned about the impact on workers and people who are looking for jobs and looking for a way to feed their families,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told CityLab.

“What ends up happening with these raids or with punitive practices is that it really does scare the entire community and makes them go underground,” said Mai Nguyen, an associate professor of Housing and Community Development at the University of Northern Carolina. "Businesses lose customers, and that affects their bottom line."

GettyImages-945287502 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers prepare for morning raids to arrest undocumented immigrants on April 11 in New York City. John Moore/Getty Images

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