Immigration Enforcement a Mix of Praise, Punishment

Article excerpt

WORKER VERIFICATION

Employers are being threatened and wooed by the Obama administration to hire only employees authorized to work in the U.S. in advance of congressional consideration of comprehensive immigration reform.

On November 19, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would audit 1,000 employers involved with "critical infrastructure," a term that can encompass companies in the utib'ties, transportation, public safety and national security sectors.

Government inspectors will analyze 1-9 forms, which contain information about employment eligibility. Violations could result in fines and lead to criminal prosecution. The effort follows an audit of 654 companies in July, previously the largest review of workplace immigration compliance.

Since April 30, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the homeland agency, has levied $15.8 million in fines - up from $2.4 million for all of fiscal 2008.

Like its predecessor, the Obama administration is emphasizing work-site enforcement. But instead of targeting illegal employees in costly raids at company operations, it is casting its net wider through the 1-9 inspections.

"It involves infinitely less in terms of ICE resources and can reach many, many more employers and many more employees," says James Wimberly Jr., a partner at WimberJy, Lavvson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine in Atlanta. "It is considered to be a kinder and gentler method of enforcement that shifts the onus from the [immigrant] families and communities that had previously been the subject of raids, to employers. …