ICE to Establish Fusion Centers for Form I-9 Audits
By: Dave Fowler
The Wall Street Journal, January
The Obama administration plans
to intensify a crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants with the establishment
of an audit office designed to bolster verification of company hiring records.
In an interview, John Morton,
chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a unit of the Department of Homeland
Security, said the Employment Compliance Inspection Center would ‘address a need to
conduct audits even of the largest employers with a very large number of employees.’
The office would be announced Thursday, he said.
Mr. Morton said that the center
would be staffed with specialists who will pore over the I-9 employee files collected
from companies targeted for audits.
In the fiscal year that ended
Sept. 30, 2010, ICE conducted audits of more than 2,740 companies, nearly twice as
many as the previous year. The agency levied a record $7 million in civil fines on
businesses that employed illegal workers.
Enforcement activity during the
Bush administration focused on high-profile raids in which thousands of illegal immigrants
were arrested and placed in deportation proceedings. Relatively few companies and
their executives were prosecuted.
In contrast, the Obama administration
has made employers the center of its immigration policy with ‘silent raids.’ Critics
say the policy has penalized small employers while failing to target larger employers.
Mr. Morton said the new center
would have the ‘express purpose’ of providing support to regional immigration offices
conducting large audits. ‘We wouldn’t be limited by the size of a company,’ he said.
‘Ultimately, it is in a company’s
best financial interest to proactively comply with the law now rather than to face
potential fines or criminal prosecution for noncompliance in the future,’ an ICE spokeswoman
Mr. Morton said ICE was also seeking
to expand a program enabling businesses to work with the federal government to ensure
they are employing people authorized to work in the U.S. Called IMAGE, or ICE Mutual
Agreement between Government and Employers, the voluntary program includes training
and assessments to help a company guard against hiring illegal employees.
This weblog is sponsored by TALX.
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