Report: Immigration Workplace Fines and Arrests Plummet

William Finn Bennett, North County Times (Escondido, Cal.), Oct. 22

When it comes to cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants, the federal government appears to be missing in action, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.

Between fiscal year 1999 and fiscal year 2003, the report shows that the number of work-site arrests in the United States by government immigration agents fell by 83 percent, dropping from 2,849 arrests in 1999, to 485 in 2003, the last year for which Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided data to the accountability office.

Another indicator of the downward trend revealed in the report was the number of employers who were fined for hiring undocumented immigrants.

In 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service issued 427 “Notices of Intent to Fine” to companies across the nation.

But in fiscal year 2004, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was formed in 2003 to do the job of the INS, issued just three such notices in the entire country, according to the report.

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The amount of time spent on work-site enforcement efforts dropped by 63 percent between 1999 and 2003, the report states.

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Top GAO official Rich Stena, director for Homeland Security and Justice with the accountability office, said that for years the government has focused on enforcement along the nation’s borders and security-sensitive work sites such as nuclear plants and airports, but has failed to adequately police other types of businesses that often hire undocumented immigrants.

“What happens is you put everyone on the line of scrimmage and once you get past the line of scrimmage, everyone scores a touchdown,” Stena said. “What we really need is an entire reformulation of our immigration policy.”

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The report attributed the decrease in work-site arrests and fines to two main causes: the shifting of agents away from traditional work-site enforcement as the immigration agency focuses on criminal alien cases and homeland security; and the increasing use of falsified documents by illegal immigrants to get work.

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