Criticism of Mississippi ICE Arrests is Premature

In the wake of the recent ICE raids (referred to as “site inspections” by ICE) in Mississippi, the Washington Post asserted that the administration is cracking down on illegal alien workers but letting their employers off the hook. The August 9 story “As workplace raids multiply, Trump administration charges few companies” noted that only five immigration cases have been “pursued against corporations under Trump.”

In response to this criticism, ICE and federal prosecutors explained that enforcement actions against employers take a long time due to the need to gather evidence of business practices that is admissible in court. Such cases often take years to bring to trial.

And the legal standard involved makes charges difficult to prove. What was not mentioned by either the WaPo, or other critics, is that the relevant law specifies penalties against employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. It does not, however, permit the prosecution of those deceived by illegal aliens’ fraud.

All employers are required to check that a potential worker is lawfully present in the United States and has authorization to work here. The problem is that most of the required documents are difficult to for employers to verify. If a worker provides fake documents, and the employer wasn’t able to detect the fraud, the employer is not subject to any criminal penalties.

In the past, various administrations have grappled with this problem differently. The Obama administration conducted some paper audits, which caused a small number of employers to lay off employees who had committed document fraud. But, in many cases, they simply caused workers to submit new documents, many of which were fake.

Some employers were, eventually, civilly fined for not bothering to check employment eligibility. However, there were few criminal prosecutions because employers could plausibly claim they did not know the workers were illegal aliens.

The advantage of, site inspections, rather than paper audits, is that any detained illegal workers can be questioned about how they were hired and about who knew they were working illegally. That information, if validated, may form the basis for prosecution when it is established that the employer either knew, or should have known, that those hired were illegally in the country and without authorization to work.

Any increase in enforcement actions that lead to major arrests of workers should remind shady employers of the financial damage that can be inflicted on their operations when they lose their exploited workforce.

And the Wapo’s swipe at ICE is a bit premature. Prosecutions are most likely in the works. Therefore, the WaPo and other mainstream media critics should keep their silence and let ICE and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Mississippi do their jobs.   

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Wonder how many of these people have families who were on some kind of federal assistance. A lot of the stories about making sure legal immigrants can support themselves have comment sections where American citizens note that they can’t afford to go to the doctor in many instances because even though they may be paying several hundreds of dollars per month for medical they have to meet deductibles of thousands of dollars before they get a penny back. People like the Koch brothers who claim government should not limit immigration have no problem with that same government paying out billions in welfare assistance, in effect subsidizing their cheap workers.

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  3. avatar

    You could start by checking federal records to see if the people who were found to be illegal actually had their status checked by the company at all. And if E-Verify isn’t required, then require it. And actually enforce it.

    Right now this is tantamount to an admission that laws are too lax regarding the vetting of employees.