On July 1, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that ICE was increasing audits of employers to verify whether their employees were eligible to work. According to ICE, at this time, records of over 600 companies are being reviewed.
One of the companies under review is clothing manufacturer, American Apparel. ICE reviewed the company’s I-9 records and notified the executives that there were approximately 1600 employees that may be in the country illegally. After the completion of the audit, a representative of the company announced that American Apparel would have to terminate the employment of approximately 1500 individuals. The company may also face an exorbitant fine.
The audit process begins with the review of the I-9 forms and other necessary employment records of a company. If an investigating agent believes that a business knowingly hired illegal workers, criminal investigations will be initiated. Additionally, fines for companies found to employ undocumented workers could exceed $800 per employee who was illegally employed.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, recent research indicates that there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. However, without undocumented immigrants, industries such as construction and agriculture could be in trouble.
Whereas the Bush administration focused on workplace raids which led to the detention and removal of thousands of undocumented immigrants, the Obama administration has shifted its enforcement efforts towards employers. Although the administration is focusing on employers, it seems likely that any undocumented immigrants employed at the companies being reviewed could end up finding themselves on Homeland Security’s radar. We will be watching with concern to see how this develops over time.
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