In a major shift from the Obama administration and its focus, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now looking to deport workers it discovers who lack legal immigration documents to work in the United States. The vehicle for this will be worksite inspections of a company’s I-9, employment verification forms on file.
Moreover, according to Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, the agency will increase the amount of time spent on “worksite enforcement” by “four or five times” this year. He further said that the deportation policy was designed to “remove the magnets” that attract foreign nationals to come to the U.S. seeking unauthorized work.
Rather than deport workers, the Obama-era enforcement agency looked to criminally prosecute employers who used unauthorized workers as a business model, mistreated workers, engaged in human smuggling or trafficking, engaged in identity and benefit fraud, laundered money, or participated in other criminal conduct.
ICE is basically the police wing of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is charged with enforcing immigration law. Fines for I-9 violations can range up to $2,000 per instance.
Just this month, Asplundh Tree Experts of Philadelphia agreed to pay a fine of $95 million for hiring illegal workers and openly accepting false documents to do so, even after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had audited the company and ordered the workers terminated, many of whom were soon thereafter rehired under different names. The fine includes $80 million of profits made while the illegal workers were on the payroll, plus a $15 million penalty.
ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries.