U.S. Begins New Crackdown on Hiring Illegal Workers

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from The Wall Street Journal,

About 1,000 Businesses Notified They Must Verify Workers’ Status.

The U.S. government has launched a fresh crackdown on employers suspected of hiring illegal immigrants by notifying about 1,000 businesses across the country in recent weeks they must submit documents for audits.

The so-called “silent raids” are the largest since July 2009 when just as many companies were notified, according to immigration attorneys, and weren’t publicly disclosed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that conducts such inspections.

When asked about the audits, ICE responded that the agency inspects company hiring records “when necessary‚Ķto ensure compliance with U.S. employment laws.” An ICE official added, “the names and locations of the businesses will not be released at this time due to the ongoing, law enforcement sensitive nature of the inspections.”

The new employment audits hit restaurants, food processing, high-tech manufacturing, agriculture and other industries that together employ tens of thousands of workers, according to attorneys representing some of the companies.

The audits happened just before the close of the government’s fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Last year, the Obama administration audited 3,004 companies, according to DHS.

Chipotle is one of the highest-profile targets of immigration audits.

The audits suggest the Obama administration is choosing not to ignore companies that hire blue-collar, foreign labor even as it presses for an immigration overhaul, which is languishing in Congress …

While the audits don’t lead to the deportation of a firm’s illegal workers, they lose their jobs if discovered. Critics of the crackdown say it drives more immigrants to exploitative, off-the-books work. For employers, the audits can lead to deep losses in productivity, in addition to civil and criminal fines, and many workers end up getting hired by competitors.

In their quest to avoid running afoul of the law, employers sometimes become overzealous by requesting too much documentation from workers. In June, the Macy’s department store chain agreed to pay fines and revise its employment policies after workers complained about discriminatory practices involving immigrant workers, leading to a Justice Department investigation.

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