The Department of Homeland Security August 10 announced a series of measures aimed at beefing up enforcement of existing immigration laws and cracking down on employers that willingly and systematically hire illegal workers.
Under new regulations published August 10, employers that receive “no match” letters indicating that an employee’s documents don’t correspond with records at the Social Security Administration have 90 days to resolve the discrepancy. If they are unable to reconcile the employee’s documentation with the official records within that time period, they must terminate the employee. Employers who fail to comply could face criminal prosecution, potential jail time and hefty fines. The new regulation goes into effect in 30 days.
Dept. of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff insisted that the new regulations are not intended to punish employers who in good faith are trying to follow the law. “We’re not trying to punish people for honest mistakes and clerical errors,” he said. Instead, employers that “willfully and consciously” violate the law will be targeted. For example, “We’ve seen instances where employers have submitted the same social security number for multiple employees.”
Overall, criminal arrests against employers that knowingly hire large number of illegal aliens are up, from only 24 in FY 1999 up to 742 so far this year. Chertoff said that the administration plans to expand criminal and civil investigations against employers that hire large numbers of undocumented workers.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said that the August 10 regulations spell out the steps employers need to take to make sure that their employees are legal. “We have heard from employers consistently that they did not have the tools” to ensure that they are following legal hiring requirements and following proper procedures when they receive a no match letter, he said.
Chertoff announced improvements to the government’s web-based verification system that should make it easier for employers to identify forged or faked immigration documents and said that all federal contractors and vendors will eventually be required to use the system.
Gutierrez and Chertoff also announced administration plans to add additional border enforcement personnel, fencing, barriers and camera and radar towers.
Gutierrez said that the changes are a good short-term fix, but what is needed is comprehensive reform from Congress. “Ultimately, Congress will have to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. Without it, a “patchwork” of inconsistent state laws will result, he said. “This issue is not going to go away. Congress needs to act.”