Immigration

Obama Admin to Shift Focus of Enforcement from Migrant Workers to Employers

New guidelines call for more reliance on criminal investigations than tips from informers.

Sand Diego Union-Tribune:

New guidelines from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aim to shift the focus of workplace immigration enforcement from employees to employers, with federal immigration agents pursuing more criminal cases against employers who hire unauthorized workers.

According to the department, the guidelines issued late last month to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with this task, represent a more targeted approach toward stemming illegal immigration by going after its key source: employers who provide jobs.

But with the existing loopholes in immigration law, gathering enough evidence to prosecute offenders is going to be rough, some observers say.

“(Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano) is enforcing a law that is flawed in and of itself,” said Ana Avendaño, director of the AFL-CIO's immigrant worker program. “Under the current legal regime, there is only so much she can do.”

The idea, according to Homeland Security, is to build tighter cases against employers by breaking with the previous administration's practice of basing workplace raids on tips. According to the agency, while a series of high-profile work-site raids last year led to more than 6,000 arrests, only 135 of these were employers.

The new approach will rely more heavily on investigations and audits to develop the evidence needed to prove criminal wrongdoing. ICE agents are to obtain criminal indictments, search warrants or a commitment from federal prosecutors to prosecute targeted employers before arresting employees on civil immigration violations, a Homeland Security official said.

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