U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is rolling out action against employers who hire illegal aliens.
Last summer, reports CNN Money, Chicago’s Cloverhill Bakery lost a third of its workforce. Close to 1,000 employees were let go after ICE audited the temp agency which had signed on recruits in its processing facilities and shops around the city.
And according to the agency’s top leadership, what happened last summer is only the beginning.
Worksite enforcement, writes CNN, is among the Trump administration’s top priorities in quelling illegal immigration. ICE was specific in saying that Americans could expect an uptick in audits and workplace raids.
“I want to see a 400% increase in work site operations,” said Tom Homan, deputy director of ICE. “We’re not just talking about arresting the aliens at these work sites, we also talking about employers who knowingly hire people who are unauthorized to work.”
Cloverhill’s caught-out aliens, like many others, had stolen the identities of ordinary Americans in a desperate attempt to secure employment.
A similar trend was seen last week, when ICE agents raided over 100 7-Eleven stores across the United States. Dozens of arrests were made, largely in response to a similar sweep in 2014. In that case, several 7-Eleven franchisees in Virginia and New York were found taking on illegal immigrants who’d procured stolen social security numbers and identity documents.
Despite the Trump administration’s immigration priorities, ICE raids and workplace audits peaked under Barack Obama – a president whose policies earned him the moniker of ‘Deporter-in-Chief’ from some immigration advocates.
But with a shift back toward policing businesses, attorney John Fay says “immigration could become the new white collar crime.”
Civil penalties for hiring undocumented aliens, writes CNN, range from $548 per worker to upward of $20,000. Repeat offenders and large corporations tend to be levied the highest fines. In some cases, employers who knowingly break the law can even be jailed.
And the costs to business aren’t minute, either.
Cloverhill’s parent company, Aryzta AG, suffered a $19 million loss last summer, following the bakery’s unexpected staff reduction.
“As these individuals had significant knowledge and experience of the baking process… there has been a significant decrease in the labor efficiency and production volumes as a result of this disruption,” the company said.
While Aryzta and Cloverhill didn’t directly hire illegal immigrants, Fay says that outsourcing the work to temp agencies can sometimes serve as a way for businesses to skirt responsibility.
“On the other end, businesses that use staffing agencies think they can skirt liability because they didn’t directly hire workers later found to be undocumented,” he said. But they, too, can be prosecuted for taking on the undocumented.