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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » Immigration Agents Shift Focus to Criminal Prosecution of Employers

Immigration Agents Shift Focus to Criminal Prosecution of Employers


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On April 30, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued updated enforcement guidelines to its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Under the updated guidelines, ICE will focus its resources in the worksite enforcement program on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. DHS announced that by prioritizing criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly “cultivate illegal workplaces,” ICE will “target the root cause of illegal immigration.” Agents are instructed to pursue evidence against employers prior to arresting workers. The department stated that it will continue to arrest and process for removal any illegal workers who are found in the course of these enforcement actions.

Under this new guidance, agents are required to obtain indictments, criminal arrest or search warrants, or a commitment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute the employer prior to making any worksite arrests. The guidelines require that agents notify ICE headquarters at least 14 days before conducting a raid with a proposed strategy for prosecuting the employer. In addition to criminal enforcement, agents are encouraged to use civil fines and debarment from federal contracts to “penalize and deter illegal employment.”