ICE to Step Up Searches for Illegal Aliens at Workplaces

Agency chief wants to more than quadruple workplace inspections
October 18, 2017 Last Updated: October 23, 2017

WASHINGTON—Tom Homan, acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said he has instructed his agents to increase workplace inspections and find employers who hire illegal aliens.

“I just gave the instruction—I want to increase [it] by four to five times,” Homan said at an event at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 17.

“We’re taking worksite enforcement very hard this year. We’ve already increased the number of inspections in worksite operations. You’re going to see that significantly increase this next fiscal year.”

Homan said the difference with the new approach is that not only will employers be prosecuted, but ICE will detain and remove the illegal alien workers.

Arrests of aliens found at a workplace, but who are not authorized to work, plummeted during the Obama era—from over 1,600 arrests in fiscal year 2009 to 106 in fiscal 2016.

In September, a Pennsylvania-based company was fined a record $95 million for hiring and rehiring employees that company executives knew to be ineligible to work in the United States.

Asplundh Tree Expert Co., a tree trimming and brush clearance company for power and gas lines, is also one of the largest privately held companies in the country, according to ICE.

Company supervisors knowingly accepted illegitimate documents, such as green cards, Social Security cards, and driver’s licenses as evidence of authorized status or employment in the United States, according to a statement by the District Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“Today’s judgment sends a strong, clear message to employers who scheme to hire and retain a workforce of illegal immigrants: We will find you and hold you accountable,” Homan said in a statement on Sept. 28. “Violators who manipulate hiring laws are a pull factor for illegal immigration, and we will continue to take action to remove this magnet.”

According to ICE, worksite enforcement investigations often uncover egregious violations of the law by employers, as well as widespread abuses.

“Such cases often involve additional violations such as alien smuggling, alien harboring, document fraud, money laundering, fraud, or worker exploitation,” ICE said on its website.

The agency also investigates employers who employ force, threats, or coercion (for example, threatening to have employees deported) in order to keep the unauthorized alien workers from reporting substandard wage or working conditions.

ICE said it will obtain the necessary authority to prosecute an employer before it arrests the employees for immigration violations at a worksite.

President Donald Trump’s immigration priorities laid out on Oct. 8 support mandatory e-verify, which is a system for businesses to check if potential employees are legally allowed to work in the United States. Currently the program is voluntary.

Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said introducing mandatory e-verify would help stop illegal immigration.  

“The biggest way to get large numbers of the illegal alien population in the United States to self-deport, is dry up their ability to work,” he said on Oct. 17.

Arizona introduced mandatory e-verify in 2008, and included a penalty to revoke a business license if an employer knowingly hired an alien who was unauthorized to work in the United States.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued and it went to Supreme Court,” von Spakovsky said. “And the Supreme Court said it’s perfectly legitimate for states to make the e-verify system mandatory and to threaten the loss of a business license.”