Deputy Director Tom Homan announced at a December press conference in Washington D.C. that ICE plans on cracking down on businesses and immigration. “I want to see a 400% increase in worksite operations,” said Tom Homan. “We’re not just talking about arresting the aliens at these work sites, we are also talking about employers who knowingly hire people who are unauthorized to work.”
Businesses have already begun to feel the effect of ICE’s crackdown. On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, ICE agents raided 98 7-Eleven franchise stores across the United States auditing and interviewing employees and managers.
Twenty-one people were arrested on suspicion of being in the United States illegally.
ICE regularly checks in with businesses through I-9 audits which seek to verify whether workers have provided proper proof of identification when they were hired. Employers must keep these I-9 forms after they have hired a worker and must keep them throughout that worker’s period of employment.
In 2017, ICE audited 1,360 businesses in the United States resulting in 71 indictments and 55 convictions of business owners and managers. This is a far cry from the 3,127 audits ICE performed in 2013. However, the Obama administration shifted its focus from worksite enforcement to deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records. This move dropped the number of ICE investigations by almost two-thirds.
With a new focus on unauthorized immigration, ICE plans on re-upping the number of investigations it holds starting this year. Civil penalties for knowingly employing unauthorized immigrants range from $548 to $21,916 for each violation. Repeat offenders and companies hiring large numbers of undocumented employees may receive fines on the higher end of the range. Criminal penalties may result in monetary fines and even jail time.
One company significantly affected by this is Asplundh Tree Expert Co., which was fined $95M in 2017. According to ICE, it was the largest payment ever levied in a work site case. According to agency estimates, at least 10% of Asplundh’s tree cutting staff was made up of undocumented workers. Asplundh has since made efforts to revamp its hiring practices using the services of compliance specialists.