- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

Employers nationwide are being warned that those who fail to fire illegal aliens who use phony documents to get hired face stiff sanctions, including fines of up to $10,000.

The Department of Homeland Security initiative was first proposed last year but was delayed pending debate in Congress over a comprehensive immigration reform bill. That effort, endorsed by President Bush, died in the Senate in June.

New rules concerning the verification of documents by employers are expected to be formally issued this week and will be reinforced by increased raids on workplaces nationwide, which employ an estimated 6 million illegal workers.

“We are tough, and we are going to be even tougher,” Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said. “There are not going to be any more excuses for employers, and there will be serious consequences for those that choose to blatantly disregard the law.”

Rep. Brian P. Bilbray, California Republican and chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, has long said that enforcing existing immigration laws was a “necessary first step” in controlling the problem of illegal immigration.

Mr. Bilbray’s spokesman, Kurt Bardella, described the proposed enforcement effort as “long overdue,” but said the federal government “needs to give employers the tools to enforce the law and differentiate who is here illegally and who is not.”

“That’s why we need a tamper-resistant Social Security card so that employers have a tamper-resistant and working employer verification system to use so that they can comply with the law,” he said.

Employers are required to verify that their workers are in the country legally by collecting their Social Security numbers and immigration documents. Those numbers are checked against U.S. government databases, and employers are notified of those that fail to match.

Nearly 10 percent of the 250 million wage reports sent to the Social Security Administration each year do not match, according to Homeland Security, although many of those mismatches are caused by record-keeping errors.

For decades, employers have paid little attention to these federal requirements.

But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, is actively pursuing employers who hire illegals.

The agency recently targeted:

c The president and two managers of a Massachusetts manufacturer awarded $230 million in contracts in the past five years. They were indicted this week on charges of conspiring to harbor and hire illegal aliens to fill the company’s work force.

c The owner of a steel company in Mississippi who was arraigned this month in federal court in an indictment charging he hired illegal aliens from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to work at critical infrastructure construction sites throughout the Gulf Coast region.

c The owner of an Ohio business sentenced last month in federal court to six months in prison, required to forfeit his $770,000 home and complete 100 hours of community service for hiring illegals and fraudulently using government documents.

ICE also made 1,297 administrative arrests of illegal aliens for immigration violations during raids in December at Swift & Co. facilities in six states — 274 of whom were criminally charged for identity theft or use of fraudulent documents.

The number of ICE arrests for criminal violations in work site raids has risen sharply since fiscal 2002 — up from 25 to 613 in fiscal 2007. There was also an increase in administrative arrests, up from 485 in fiscal 2002 to 3,226 in fiscal 2007. Administrative immigration arrests refer to illegal alien workers who are in the United States unlawfully, but have committed no other crime.

Under the proposed rule, employers would have to respond promptly when notified of a mismatch — either by clearing up a clerical error or firing those found to be in the country illegally. An estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens are living in the United States.



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