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Audits of Employers Show Changes in Immigration Policy

August 12, 2011
Plain English Version

Last year, 2,196 businesses were audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. They ask employers to produce I-9 employment eligibility forms for all employees.

The Bush administration focused on raids that resulted in the arrests of immigrant workers. The Obama administration is going after employers with ICE I-9 audits. It believes employers create the demand that drives most illegal immigration.

Furthermore, The Social Security Administration is sending employers “no-match” letters when an employee’s W-2 information does not match with agency information. This puts the employer on alert.

Business owners must accept the information on I-9 form filled out by workers. The federal audit shows how many workers are here legally. Employers who do everything right still have to fire workers if an audit shows them to be undocumented.

For workers and employers the results can be devastating.

One nursery company in California had to fire 26 of its 99 employees. All had been there five to 10 years. The employer was not punished because, “he had acted reasonably in hiring them.”

His business has suffered. Finding replacement employees was difficult. He said, “I have gone through more workers this year than I have in the past ten years combined.”

ICE does not take the affected workers into custody for deportation. Apparently, all the workers found other jobs nearby.

Another program is called E-Verify. It lets employers confirm social security numbers and green card numbers electronically. The use of this program is only required in some states. A bill in Congress would make all employers use the program.


The I-9 audit, the Social Security “no-match” program, the E-Verify program are federal efforts to control immigration. In addition, the “Secure Communities” program requires finger printing and record checking against Department of Homeland Security data for all people booked by the police.

Whom these programs hurt and whom these programs help depend on many things, mostly your view of immigration policy in the United States.

The New York TImes


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