President Obama had not been in office four months when, on April 30, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially rolled out a new worksite enforcement policy. Beginning in that month, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the branch of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) responsible for worksite enforcement, instituted a new, less effective, immigration enforcement strategy. This policy substituted audits of the I-9 forms employers must give to new hires, which at most would result in civil fines on the employers, for the worksite raids of the latter days of the Bush Administration, where illegal alien workers were arrested and deported.
The new strategy was not a surprise at the time, as senior officials at DHS had indicated in March of that year that then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano would be changing the policy and ending the worksite raids, which were unpopular with pro-amnesty groups. The raids had also been drawing criticism from Democrats such as then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for failing, in her opinion, to be ineffective.
The end of the raids, which might lead to deportation, removed a key deterrent for aliens working illegally. With the Administration’s strategy, adopted five years ago, the only deterrent that remains is that employers themselves will choose not to hire illegal aliens if they know the chance of being fined is higher than before. However, such a deterrent depends entirely on the fines being substantial enough that employers will not simply hire illegal aliens.
Therefore, the news from earlier this year that the Administration has also adopted the practice of reducing the fines of employers, especially those whose fines are large enough to cause a hardship, is very significant. This February, a report from the Inspector General of DHS showed that the Administration has indeed been negotiating with the employers who break the law to substantially reduce their fines. In fact, the audit found that from fiscal years 2009 through 2012, HSI reduced penalties on employers who hire illegal aliens an average of 40 percent, from $52.7 million to $31.2 million, and that of 1,174 final orders, 68 percent were reduced, 28 percent of those by more than half.
Read more at FAIR’s President Obama’s Record of Dismantling Immigration Enforcement.