WASHINGTON— The Bush administration said Friday that it plans to significantly raise fines for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, part of a broader effort that includes improved border security after Congress failed to pass immigration-related legislation in 2007.
The hikes in employer fines will be the first since 1999. The new policy is the latest aimed at the most sensitive pressure point in illegal immigration: businesses that employ the workers.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has intensified raids on rogue companies in the last three years, prosecuting executives on criminal charges and arresting workers, who often use valid Social Security numbers, for identity theft.
The increased fines will take effect March 27. The minimum penalty will increase by $100, to $375. The maximum fine for a first-time offender will jump $1,000, to $3,200. And the maximum fine for repeated violations will rise $5,000, to $16,000. Fines are assessed on a per-person basis, so an employer with 10 illegal immigrants on staff would pay 10 fines.