ICE targeting employers who offer work to undocumented immigrants, agency says

ICE to target businesses that hire undocumented workers

ICE targeting employers who offer work to undocumented immigrants, agency says.
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ICE targeting employers who offer work to undocumented immigrants, agency says.

U.S. immigration authorities have begun targeting businesses nationwide that offer work to undocumented immigrants in what they are calling “worksite enforcement surges” and will pursue criminal charges where warranted, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday.

Immigration officials so far have served 3,282 businesses with notices of inspection between July 15 and July 19, warning them that their records will be audited. Officials said notices won’t stop there and will continue to be rolled out across the 50 states and Puerto Rico.

ICE would not give a breakdown on how many were issued in Florida.

“When we perform these worksite surges, our primary goal is to pursue criminal prosecution against those businesses, who frankly their business model is based upon illegal employment,” said ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence on a call with reporters Tuesday. “We are going after those individuals that are here illegally and working unlawfully as well.”

Albence said the agency will pursue “a host of charges with regard to illegal employment of aliens to include: tax fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, both against the company as well as the employee.”

According to Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations agents inside ICE detention centers, the “large majority” of people crossing the southern border are “economic migrants” — people looking for the opportunity to obtain a job.

“What this effort is trying to do is restore integrity to the employment system within this country so that individuals who are not lawful and do not have lawful authorization to work here in the country cannot easily find employment,” Albence said. “When you have businesses that utilize illegal labor, we will go after them aggressively and try to instill a culture of compliance with regard to both hiring practices and documentation practices.”

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Rebecca Shi, the executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, told the Miami Herald that ICE’s targeted enforcement will be “disastrous” to the agricultural and hospitality industries.

“This will not only hurt jobs, it will hurt the economy,” Shi said.

Though worksite audits are not uncommon for ICE, the agency has ramped up its operations and will continue to keep illegal employment as a focal point, the agency said.

“We’ve definitely seen a growth in audit inspections. This effort makes no economical or political sense,” Shi added. “The reality is, native-born people aren’t going after jobs like picking tomatoes, citrus, landscaping. That’s been part of the American story for generations. You start at the bottom.”

Jonathan Fried, executive director of WeCount!, a farmworkers’ rights group in Homestead, told the Miami Herald he’s “concerned about the well-being of people who are trying to make a living while contributing to our economy.”

“It’s an open secret that there are a number of sectors in the economy that are dependent on immigrant labor, including folks that are undocumented,” Fried said. “These jobs have brought benefits to the economy. Criminalizing them because they are doing this is wrong.”

Immigrants, both documented and not, have been a boost to the economy, according to the New American Economy, a bipartisan research and advocacy organization focused on immigration.

According to a recent report released by the group, Miami’s immigrants paid more than $16 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2017. Also in the report: Immigrants in Miami made up more than 70 percent of the workforce in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry — a 10 percent increase from 2016.

“Immigrants in Miami are the backbone of the industries that drive growth in the area, from construction to manufacturing,” said Kate Brick, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy, noting that immigrants made up 62.7 percent of construction workers and 59 percent of manufacturing workers in Miami.

Over the past several months it has been widely reported that undocumented immigrants work in a number of President Donald Trump’s properties across the country.

Earlier this month, The New York Times asked the president if undocumented immigrants remain working on his golf courses. “I don’t know because I don’t run it,” he replied.

It’s unclear if Trump’s resorts in Doral and Palm Beach would be targeted by ICE.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls from the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

Monique O. Madan covers immigration and enterprise; she previously covered breaking news and local government. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Dallas Morning News. She is currently a Reveal Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. She graduated from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston. A note to tipsters: If you want to send Monique confidential information, her email and mailbox are open. The address is 3511 NW 91st Ave, Doral, FL 33172. You can also direct message her on social media and she’ll provide encrypted Signal details.