An inspector general’s report determined that the Obama administration’s reduction in fines by an average of 40% for businesses that hire illegal immigrants is diminishing the effectiveness that fines can have in discouraging businesses from flouting immigration laws to hire cheap labor.
According to an audit by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement cut one business’s fine from $4.9 million to slightly more than $1 million,” a 78% drop.
“The knowledge that fines can be significantly reduced may diminish the effectiveness of fines as a deterrent to hiring unauthorized workers,” the inspector general said in the report.
According to The Washington Times, though “the federal government was supposed to be putting more of an emphasis on going after employers” under Obama, the report “said ICE submitted notices totaling fines of more than $52.7 million from 2009 through 2012, but ended up charging only $31.2 million — for a 40 percent break for businesses.”
Though the inspector general found that the Obama administration should do more to crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, the Bush administration, which also sought comprehensive immigration reform, cracked down even less. The Bush administration only imposed $1.5 million in fines from 2003-2008. Fines can be reduced “if it seems the businesses’ finances can’t handle a large penalty.” Investigators said that “ICE showed little consistency in how it applied sanctions.”
As the Times notes, “All businesses are required to store the I-9 forms submitted by employees that show their legal work status.” However, the “I-9 paper-based process is easy to defraud.” Considering this, “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.”