Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made good on an earlier promise to ramp up work-site enforcement, closing out fiscal year 2018 with a four-fold increase in work-site inspections and audits and more than seven times the number of arrests.
ICE in FY 2018 launched 6,848 work-site investigations and 5,981 audits of businesses’ employment verification forms, known as I-9s. The prior fiscal year, there were 1,691 work-site investigations and 1,360 I-9 audits.
But it wasn’t just the numbers that changed in fiscal 2018. The nature of the agency’s work-site enforcement efforts shifted from the Obama administration’s focus on employer paperwork violations to more of an emphasis on raids and arrests of unauthorized immigrants.
The move is in line with the Trump administration’s focus on greater immigration enforcement.
In that vein, ICE undertook some high-profile enforcement actions at workplaces during the fiscal year. Those include an April raid on a Bean Station, Tenn., slaughterhouse that resulted in the arrest of 104 undocumented workers and an August raid on a trailer manufacturer in Sumner, Texas, during which 160 undocumented workers were arrested.
The agency admitted that it could be a while before the tangible monetary effects of the increased enforcement are felt by businesses. Criminal indictments and convictions held steady in FY 2018 from past years because the investigations leading to those outcomes “can take months to years to fully develop,” ICE said in a Dec. 11 statement.
A Texas company’s agreement to forfeit $5.5 million in FY 2018, for example, was the culmination of an enforcement action that started in April 2012 under the Obama administration.
Including the $5.5 million restitution, ICE netted $10.2 million in judicial fines, forfeitures, and restitutions, down from $96.7 million in FY 2017. The latter figure was skewed by a $95 million judgment against Asplundh Tree Experts for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.
Civil fines were up to $10.2 million from $7.8 million in fiscal 2017.