ICE Cracks Down on Undocumented Workers, But Not Their Employers

Since President Trump took office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased its efforts to make arrests at businesses suspected of employing undocumented workers. However, a new report from USA TODAY reveals that ICE agents making these arrests are not going after employers, and are instead pursuing charges against undocumented workers.

In 2018, ICE was ordered to quadruple worksite enforcement. In fact, ICE set 10-year highs for the number of audits conducted this year, totaling 5,981. They also set new highs for the number of criminal charges filed, totaling 779.

ICE officials claim that its increased efforts focused on employers and employees equally. However, data shows that most of the arrests carried out in 2018 were of undocumented workers.

The number of management personal charged with criminal violations in 2018 increased by 82% when compared to 2017. Charges for criminal violations in 2018 increased by 812%. Administrative arrests for minor immigration violations increased from 172 in 2017 to 1,525 in 2018. 121 mangers were convicted in 2018, a 10-year low for ICE.

Greg Nevano is in charge of overseeing worksite enforcement for ICE's Homeland Security Investigations office. According to him, employers who use undocumented workers do not get a pass. Nevano says that it takes more time for federal charges to be processed for employers, and that the number for these cases will increase in 2019. "We need more time to develop these investigations," Nevano said.

Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, doesn’t buy Nevano’s explanation for the significant difference in the number of undocumented workers and employers arrested by ICE.  Noorani says, “When you look at the deployment of prosecutorial resources by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, it's clear they are more worried about the undocumented housekeeper than they are about the unscrupulous employer."

According to Esther Lopez, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Trump administration should try to get Congress to improve guest worker programs instead of going after hardworking immigrants. “It is time for our nation’s leaders to recognize the incredible contributions these workers make to our economy and focus on policies that create good-paying jobs that help every worker succeed, not tear innocent families apart,” Lopez said.

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