US cut back on illegal-worker penalties

Via The Boston Globe

Data indicate lax enforcement against employers

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration, which is vowing to crack down
on US companies that hire illegal immigrants, virtually abandoned such
employer sanctions before it began pushing to overhaul US immigration
laws last year, government figures show.

In light of the government’s record, analysts on all sides of the
debate are expressing doubt the administration will be able to remove
the American job magnet that attracts illegal immigrants.

Between 1999 and 2003, worksite enforcement operations were scaled
back 95 percent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which
subsequently was merged into the Homeland Security Department. The
number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants
dropped from 182 to four, and fines collected declined from $3.6
million to $212,000, according to federal data. In 1999, the United
States initiated fines against 417 companies. In 2004, it issued fine
notices to three.

The government’s steady retreat from workplace enforcement in the 20
years since it became illegal to hire undocumented workers is the
result of fierce political pressure from business lobbies, immigrant
rights groups, and members of Congress, according to law enforcement
veterans.

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