Continued from page 1

“The Obama administration was bringing cases and imposing fines that were completely unreasonable in light of the fact that the employers had not hired unauthorized workers, and instead were being fined for errors in the employment verification process, sometimes thought of as ‘paperwork violations,’ ” chamber Senior Vice President Randy Johnson said in a statement to The Washington Times. “Such high fines were inconsistent with the administration’s own guidelines. An administrative law judge stepped in, as well she should have, and reduced those fines, in case after case.”

Investigators said overall, ICE showed little consistency in how it applied sanctions. Some field offices gave out far more warnings and far fewer fines than other offices.

All businesses are required to store the I-9 forms submitted by employees that show their legal work status.

Analysts say the I-9 paper-based process is easy to defraud. All sides agree that an electronic system would be better — though many businesses balk at adopting electronic verification without first changing the rest of the immigration system.

In its official reply to the report, ICE didn’t address the issue of reduced fines.

The agency said it has tried to be consistent overall with how it goes after employers with warnings and fines and that the differences among field offices are caused by a number of factors.

The agency said it even went back and reviewed some cases to see whether a fine or warning was the right response and that it found the initial decisions were usually correct.

The agency did agree to strive for more consistency in its reporting of information.

Businesses have been an afterthought in much of the immigration debate, which has focused on the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country and whether they should be given a pathway to citizenship.

Business groups say passing a legalization bill is important because it would give them a more certain workforce and would likely increase legal immigration channels, which would mean more workers.

“Failure to act is not an option,” a coalition of 636 business organizations said in their letter to Mr. Boehner on Tuesday. “We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest. In short, immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs, and dynamism to our economy.”