Enforcement, Enforcement and …. Enforcement

The United States spent more money on immigration enforcement in Fiscal Year 2012 than on budgets for the FBI, the ATF, the DEA and the Secret Service combined. A recent report issued by the Migration Policy Institute pointed out that nearly $18 billion was spent on programs run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), the U.S. Visit program, and Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”), which includes border patrol. Despite these significant expenditures, lawmakers continue to claim that the border is not safe.  At the same time, the U.S. immigration system remains broken.

As we remind our clients, President Barack Obama has deported people at a much faster rate (32,886 per month) than his two predecessors, George W. Bush (20,964 per month) and William J. Clinton (9,059 per month).  President Obama has come to be known as The Deporter In Chief for having deported more people in four years of office than George W. Bush deported in eight.  These numbers should dispel any argument that Mr. Obama is “soft on illegal immigration,” but those claims continue to be levied against the President.

Another new report provides insight into the Obama Administration’s enforcement policies.  According to an AP story, the number of ICE I-9 audits has skyrocketed under the current administration.  An I-9 is the form that employers use to make sure they have properly identified and documented their new hires.  Audits of I-9 forms have increased from 250 in 2007 to 3000 in 2012. The number of company managers arrested has also increased dramatically over the past few years.  The fines ranged from a low of $90 to a high of $394,944.  The median fine was $11,000.

Certainly, the fines associated with the ICE audits can be problematic, especially for smaller businesses.  But the larger consequences of an ICE investigation include (1) criminal prosecution of company personnel, (2) legal fees incurred while responding to the audit and (3) the potential loss of key employees.  The key ways to prevent getting ensnared in an ICE audit include proper recordkeeping, thoroughness in verifying the accuracy of documents and timely review of I-9 paperwork.