The Federal government has begun a new crackdown on businesses suspected of hiring illegal workers, subjecting employers to lengthy audits and the risk of thousands of dollars in fines.
According to The Wall Street Journal
, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has asked around 1,000 businesses to submit detailed information about their workforces, which are being examined against the Social Security database for any inconsistencies. Employee backgrounds are being looked at in other ways as well.
In addition to being forced to pay onerous fines, companies found to be employing illegal workers must dismiss them immediately, which could significantly damage their productivity and competitiveness.
"The administration appears to start with the presumption that employers are not telling the truth about their listed employees," Eileen Scofield, an immigration attorney with Alston & Bird LLP, told the Journal.
She said recent audits have been "deeper in scope and more intense" than in the past.
In the last four years, the government has audited at least 10,000 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor and imposed more than $100 million in administrative and criminal fines, the Journal reports.
The audits span a number of industries, including restaurants, high-tech manufacturing, food processing, and agriculture, all of which are known for employing high concentrations of the nation's estimated 8 million undocumented workers.
Even in cases where no illegal workers are discovered, employers can still be fined thousands of dollars under the crackdown for paperwork errors and information inconsistencies.
Some employers in recent years have made new efforts to avoid unknowingly hiring illegal workers by using the government's E-Verify system designed to flag people who aren't eligible to work in the U.S. The system, however, which has been widely touted during congressional debates on immigration reform as a key tool to stamp out illegal workers, has had limited effectiveness because it is unable to check the status of workers hired years ago.
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