HEARING: House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, Worksite Enforcement and The Need For Broader Reform

This week the House subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement held their first hearing on "ICE Worksite Enforcement - Up to the Job?"  At hand was the question of whether or not Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was adequately enforcing worksite immigration laws. More then anything else what this hearing showed was that their needs to be a more comprehensive reform of how foreign born workers are processed into the American labor force.

ICE under the Obama administration has moved away from raids, and moved to administer audits of businesses who they suspect to be using undocumented workers. The emphasis is now more on employers who hire immigrants and not just arresting undocumented immigrants who are working in the factories.

ICE does this by auditing I-9 forms, levying fines and utilizing employer verification tools such as E-Verify and the Ice Mutual Agreement Between the Government and Employers Program.

What this hearing was about more than anything was metrics, and accountability. The GOP think that punitive actions against immigrants employed by workers in the form of raids is most effective in creating a deterrent for immigrants to work for businesses.

While Democrats and ICE are utilizing audits to reach a larger group of business and seek to hold them accountable for hiring undocumented immigrants. While also continuing to arrest and deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.

It is ironic that in such a polarizing debate over immigration, the GOP have often accused Democrats and the Administration of not doing enough on enforcement. Yet there really is not a debate about whether or not to enforce immigration laws. BOTH political parties want to enforce immigration laws, it is how where they differ.

One thing is clear, the current Administrations plan is working:

Kumar C. Kibble, Deputy Director, Immigration Customs and Enforcement's testimony can be found here, and below is part of his testimony:

The success of our worksite enforcement is evident in the statistics.

In fiscal year (FY) 2010, ICE initiated: 

  • A record 2,746 worksite enforcement investigations, more than doubling the 1,191 cases initiated in FY 2008.
  • ICE criminally arrested 196 employers for worksite related violation, surpassing the previous high of 135 in FY 2008.
  • ICE also issued a record 2,196 notices of inspection to employers, surpassing the prior year's record of 1,444 and more than quadrupling the 503 inspections in 2008.
  • ICE issued 237 final orders - documents requiring employers to cease violation the law and directing them to pay fines - totaling $6,956,026, compared to the 18 issued for $675,209 in FY 2008.
  • The total of $6,956,026 last year represents the most final orders issued since the creation of ICE in 2003.
  • In addition worksite investigations resulted in a record $36,611,320 in judicial fines, forfeitures, and restitutions.
  • Finally ice brought a new level of integrity to the contractinc process by debarring a record 97 businesses and 49 individuals preventing unscrupulous companies from engaging in future business with the government.

While all of these enforcement statistics are impressive, what this hearing has shown more then anything is that whether it is worksite raids or company audits with deportations of undocumented aliens, the current construct of how foreign born workers are processed into the country does not work. Never mind the huge population of undocumented workers that are here, which increased enforcement no matter how good will ever truly be able to adequately remove in any sort of economically feasible manner.

All of this points to a need to continue to work on a more comprehensive overhaul of how workers are brought into the country. Let's stay tuned to see if that conversation ever occurs in the House committee of immigration policy and enforcement, but lets not hold our breath....