U.S. cracks down on hiring of illegal immigrants

By Dow Jones Newswires-Wall Street Journal
Posted Feb. 17 at 8:14 a.m.

The federal government is requiring as many as 1,000 companies to turn over their employment records for inspection, part of an expanding crackdown on businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, according to people close to the Department of Homeland Security.

The audits, which the government is expected to make public in the next few days, represent the biggest operation since 2009. At that time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS unit, conducted an auditing sweep of businesses working in public safety and national security.

ICE last month established an employment compliance inspection center to beef up coordination across states instead of having agents follow only local leads. The latest round of audits targets at least a few regional fast-food chains, according to people with knowledge of the operation.

Federal agents are expected to visit the companies in coming days to notify them of the requirement. The required documents include I-9 forms, used to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility for employment in the U.S.

ICE declined to comment. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The big new sweep comes as state and federal lawmakers who champion tough immigration enforcement are pushing to mandate that all U.S. companies use a government-run electronic database to verify whether their new hires are legal workers. Currently, only federal contractors are required by law to use the program, called E-Verify.

The enforcement approach allows both Democrats and Republicans to argue that they’re tackling illegal immigration even in the absence of major new legislation on the issue. Both sides can tout enforcement as an effort to protect American workers from illegal immigrants, perceived as creating unfair competition for scarce jobs.

That helps explain the push to expand the database system, which can weed out undocumented workers, and a recent surge of immigration enforcement by the Obama administration, which is stepping up its use of “silent raids,” or audits of employee records that can lead businesses to dismiss hundreds of workers.

ICE isn’t expected to name the companies it is auditing but may identify the sectors in which they operate. Historically, agriculture and the food-processing and hospitality industries are the most vulnerable to enforcement actions, because they rely heavily on low-skilled workers.

“I have just received I-9 notices for several clients,” said Victor Cerda, an attorney with Jackson Lewis LLP and a former general counsel of ICE. Mr. Cerda, who advises companies on immigration compliance, says he is collecting his clients’ paperwork to start discussions with authorities.

Audits last year ensnared the fast-growing burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., which in recent months was forced to dismiss hundreds of illegal workers in Minnesota. An ongoing investigation of 60 Chipotle restaurants in Virginia and Washington, D.C., will likely force the company to shed more workers, according to immigration authorities.

Thousands of workers have been caught in the net by the Obama administration. Among other companies hit by the program are Abercrombie & Fitch Co., hip-clothing maker American Apparel Inc. and Gebbers Farms, a big apple grower in Washington state.

Experts say the audits are more effective than the work-site sweeps of the Bush era because they make employers let go of every suspected illegal immigrant on the books, not only those present when a raid occurs. Companies are highly unlikely to hire replacements who are illegal immigrants.

Julie Myers Wood, who headed ICE in the Bush administration, said the Chipotle audit and the possible expansion of E-Verify at the federal or local level had companies on edge.

“These developments show that it’s not wise to turn a blind eye” to unauthorized workers, said Ms. Myers Wood, who currently advises businesses on immigration issues. Companies can face civil and criminal prosecution for violations.

The Service Employees International Union, about 25 percent of whose members are immigrants, opposes the raids. “Silent raids are not helping keep good people employed, and they are not helping the economy,” said Ben Monterroso, a senior staffer with the SEIU, the country’s largest union, with 2.2 million members in health care, janitorial services and government. The union, which grew its ranks in California and other states by attracting immigrants, regardless of their status, favors an amnesty program for illegal workers, Mr. Monterroso said.

Though E-Verify’s use has grown in recent years, only about 11 percent of 7.7 million employers nationwide use the program, either voluntarily or as a condition for doing business with the government. In recent weeks, Republican promoters of E-Verify have begun pushing for an expansion of the program in Congress and in several states.

At Stanley Farms, a 1,000-acre onion grower in Georgia, workers are overwhelmingly Hispanic immigrants, who co-owner Brian Stanley says he assumes are legal workers unless he is told otherwise. The closely held grower has tested equipment to replace manual labor during the April-to-June harvest, with little success. Vidalia onions, which tend to be softer than other onions, are easily bruised, says co-owner Brian Stanley.

“There’s nothing out there to replace hand labor, and we don’t have American people applying for these jobs,” said Brian Stanley, a third-generation onion farmer.

“Using E-Verify would cut our work force and hurt our business,” he says.


Companies in this article


  1. really Feb. 17 at 9:16 a.m.

    Excellent! About time too!

  2. Chicago Nick Feb. 17 at 9:24 a.m.

    The only question is why only 100 when we all know it’s likely around a million easily and number two what took so long?

    Secondly arriba andale andale….about time

  3. Chicago Nick Feb. 17 at 9:25 a.m.

    meant why only 1000 ;)

  4. momic Feb. 17 at 9:35 a.m.

    They should start with the labor unions. As long as the quarterly payments come in the union bosses are happy to look away. No matter the working conditions or hours.

  5. southern Feb. 17 at 9:40 a.m.

    How about requireing Everify for every job. That way we can verify eveyrone and make sure that everyone is working legally. If they hire someone without using Everify then they are subject to the forfiture of their business and then imprisonment. This way it will become an federal issue as it should be.

  6. jc Feb. 17 at 9:43 a.m.

    Through E-verify we found that two of our workers had bogus social security numbers. We contacted the state of Illinois about this and asked them what we should do. We received a letter from the state saying we should hand the employees a letter saying the employees should visit the social security office and get the matter straightened out. No further action or follow-up was advised by the state. The letter also said that if we fired the employees because of this it could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

  7. alex Feb. 17 at 9:44 a.m.

    Wonderful. Let’s see you 2 morons apply.

  8. Superdessucke Feb. 17 at 9:54 a.m.

    Chipotle was forced to dismiss several hundred workers? How about forced to dismiss AND fined several million dollars, the proceeds of which will be returned to the U.S. taxpayers who have had to foot the bill for these unskilled, uninsured, and uneducated workers for the past two and a half decades? That works better for me. So long as companies get a mere slap on the wrist, nothing is going to change. Still, it is definitely the right thing to focus on the companies who hire them. That’s how you will stop it.

  9. Mr.Nick Feb. 17 at 9:54 a.m.

    Go after the temp agencies, thats how companies are getting around illegal hiring. There are many temp agencies in the Chicagoland area that specialize in providing illegal labor.

  10. Superdessucke Feb. 17 at 9:58 a.m.

    @jc, this has to be the most ignorant comment I’ve heard all day. You need state bureaucrats to give you legal advice? Sure you do. If you’d contacted even a hack attorney, he’d have told you that “not authorized to work in the U.S.” is not a protected class under any employment discrimination statute at the local, county, state or federal level. Let me guess, these two workers are still on the payroll, right?

  11. Superdessucke Feb. 17 at 10:01 a.m.

    @Mr. Nick, that is courtesy of the 1986 immigration reform bill. Basically, it let employers off the hook for fines and penalties if they rely on subcontract labor. And most of these “day labor” subcontractors are fly by night and will simply fold up and pop up somewhere else before they have to pay any fines. This loophole should be closed.

  12. It gets better Feb. 17 at 10:02 a.m.

    [[Chicago Nick Today at 9:24 a.m.
    The only question is why only 100 when we all know it’s likely around a million easily and number two what took so long?]]

    Deportations of criminal illegal aliens is up under Obama. Priority number one…get rid of the violent felons. Second, for many months the administration has been using this tactic of auditing companies and serving them with notices about compliance with SS and workplace laws.

    Read the article: [[The audits, which the government is expected to make public in the next few days, represent the biggest operation since 2009. At that time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS unit, conducted an auditing sweep of businesses working in public safety and national security.

    ICE last month established an employment compliance inspection center to beef up coordination across states instead of having agents follow only local leads. The latest round of audits targets at least a few regional fast-food chains, according to people with knowledge of the operation.]]

    Ramped up enforcement. News gets out, employers realize they are next and the carry on effect is realized.

  13. It gets better Feb. 17 at 10:03 a.m.

    deportations ARE up…sorry for they typo

  14. okay Feb. 17 at 10:09 a.m.

    you know not only mexicans are illegal

  15. TGHW Feb. 17 at 10:15 a.m.

    While this is all well and good it is a total waste of time until the Federal government makes it a priority to seal the border. Without control of our borders this is nothing more than a vicious cycle that will continue to repeat itself over and over again.

    It’s a dog and pony show by the Feds, folks. The only real purpose is to give politicians an excuse to say that they are doing “something”.

  16. nancy Feb. 17 at 10:16 a.m.

    What a joke – it’s about time!

  17. RegularGuy Feb. 17 at 10:24 a.m.

    This will ‘create’ more jobs than any of the previous ’stimulus’ programs.

    Next, we need to suspend the H1-B visa program and ship all those IT people back to their home countries.

  18. jc Feb. 17 at 10:29 a.m.

    Superdessucke – Yes I do rely on official letters from the state of Illinois for legal advice. I can use this letter to protect me in the event there is an investigation.

    I don’t want to fire these two people – they are very good workers. Better than most of my employees who are legal. So yes, they are still employed.

  19. jadeveon Feb. 17 at 10:45 a.m.

    @jc – you’re part of the problem…may you rot in h*ll for it

  20. clarence Feb. 17 at 10:47 a.m.

    Well here you have the obama administration making Chipotle get rid of a few employees. WOW! Someone tell the obama administration there are over 13 million illegal aliens working in the U.S. What obma is doing is nothing. Close the boarder first then talk about making it hard for companies to hire illegal aliens. Let’s say a $5000.00 fine for each illegal alien found on the payroll. Chipotle would be singing a different tune if it was forced to pay thousands.

  21. Jimbo 719 Feb. 17 at 11:39 a.m.

    @ jadeveon – you say jc is part of the problem, maybe it’s you(or lazy Americans) that aren’t as good of workers as his 2 illegals.

  22. chi Feb. 17 at 12:21 pm


    All growing economies are focusing on employment of their own citizens. Maybe that is the reason why they are growing…

    In case of any legal issue with your preferred employees which country you expect protect you and your business? Yours or theirs?

  23. smc Feb. 17 at 1:08 pm

    So let’s get all the immigrants out of this county since there are so many legal Americans applying for these minimum wage jobs, willing to work long hours in poor conditions, no benefits, and can’t wait to work at farms or as custodians.

    @Superdessucke; unless you’re planning to start your own farm in your back yard, clean the public toilets you use, you need to close your mouth. In one way or another we all have benefit from these immigrants and just remember that those immigrants are handling your food somewhere along the way. So once your dream comes true to have them all back in their countries and import their fruits and vegetables don’t be surprised if you end up with e-coli as a thank you from them.

  24. Silvia Feb. 17 at 1:30 pm

    Just allow them to become legal. I beleive that most of them are illegal not by their choice.

  25. Superdessucke Feb. 17 at 1:39 pm

    So smc, you think it’s ok to exploit people by working long hours in poor conditions and with no benefits ‘eh? Alas, the truth comes out! I couldn’t have underscored my points any better than you just did. Thank you.

    And no, I won’t close my mouth. It is morally wrong. If Americans want these services done, then they should pay the people doing them a fair wage, and insurance and benefits. We should not allow employers to exploit them while the taxpayers foot the bill for their health care and education.

    I wonder if you or jc live in a community with large numbers of “undocumented” immigrants. Somehow, I doubt it. They are poor and carry high social costs, that business can ignore and write off.

  26. Harlon Katz Feb. 17 at 1:42 pm

    @Silvia – how is coming to this country illegally “not by their choice”, or do you believe that most illegals are now adults that were brought over as children?

    @jc – As for IL not doing anything and threatening you for taking action – not hard to believe at all. Wasn’t IL/Chicago one of the groups fighting e-verify when it was introduced?

    @momic – That would be great if they made Union membership dependent on being here legally – after all, you are not supposed to WORK here if you are not legal, so what difference would it make anyway

  27. Silvia Feb. 17 at 1:53 pm

    Harlon, there is a difference between coming illegal and staying illegal. Many come legally, but stay illegal because they are not allowed to legalize.

  28. smc Feb. 17 at 2:11 pm

    @ superdessucke; I’m being realistic we as americans, not only business owners but consumers as well like to enjoy nice things an at low price an my point is that whether you like it or not we all have contributed in one way or another to this situation an that includes you too. I don’t agree to have people working in poor conditions without benefits but this is America an everyone is all about their money. Yes, it would be nice for everyone to have a descent job,wages, an benefits legally but we are not prepared to pay the price. Millions of legally employed americans don’t have any of those benefits because corporate american is not looking to help the blue collar employee. Also half of these illegal aliens work an pay taxes an never claim them or their benefits but I don’t see any one not the government or the american people discussing where the money goes or the fact that is fair to give it back to them some how since they have earn it. The fact that you wish to have an immigrant free country and provide everyone with a descent job with benefits is very nice of you but for that to happen we not only have to change the american government but also stop allowing all those wall-street corporations to pay lobbies to have congress pass whatever laws better benefit their business.

  29. jadeveon Feb. 17 at 2:44 pm

    @Jimbo 719 – Keep making the same, tired, factually incorrect argument….it only shows your true intelligence.

  30. Mr.Nick Feb. 17 at 2:57 pm

    I love how these pro-illegal individuals continually attempt to use the fallacy that illegals do jobs American citizens wont do. In reality, illegals work A LOT of skilled jobs and STEAL the more remedial jobs that high school and college kids could work. They’re working skilled jobs like manufacturing, warehouse and construction, while stealing entry level positions like fast food from the high school kids.

    So quit pretending like illegals are out there picking corn in the cornfields of Illinois.

    Its an absolute fact there are many temp agencies that hire illegals and place them in skilled positions.

    There are MANY jobs in several industries United States citizens would gladly work, however those industries are dominated by illegal aliens and those that sympathize with them.

    Its astounding how we have a job and economic crisis – yet some people think its just fine that illegals are here working jobs that could go to jobless American citizens.

    The US should have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the hiring of illegals, and businesses that do hire them should be severely fined – especially in this job market. The revenue generated from those fines should be placed in unemployment/social security.

    When companies find hiring illegals too risky they will stop hiring them and the illegals will eventually go home…

    You want to work in the US? then apply for a visa or wait your turn for citizenship. You shouldn’t be rewarded with financial gain for entering this country illegally, especially when 15 million American citizens are unemployed.

  31. Jimbo 719 Feb. 17 at 3:34 pm

    @jadeveon- what factually incorrect argument? Please explain. There are a lot of illegal immigrants who work very hard at jobs that Americans won’t do. FACT! As far as true intelligence, I don’t see you saying anything except to tell jc that he can rot in hell. you sure have class. Not!

  32. Joanie Feb. 17 at 3:42 pm

    Anyone who provides a social security number when they work (real or fake) contributes taxes to the IRS and SSA.

    If you have a REAL SSN, you can file a tax return to retrieve some of the money, or you can get SS benefits at age 65.

    If you have a FAKE SSN, you donate all of those withholdings to the goverment, in a big pot of money for our benefit. Here is a quote from 2005:
    David Kassabian – Fall 2005
    WASHINGTON – More than $519 billion in wages that has been reported to the Social Security Administration can’t be matched with workers, the agency says.

    The total is presumed to reflect the large number of illegal immigrants working in the country using fake Social Security cards, Congress’ chief budget adviser said last month.

    That’s a pretty hefty contribution to our economy, I’d say.

  33. LJ Feb. 17 at 4:30 pm

    I fully support the eVerify effort to weed out illegal hiring and it should be a requirement for all companies to comply. One other thing to consider is that American shoppers have the right to not shop or do business with those firms that clearly hire illegals. If you suspect your lawn service, local eatery, local car wash, restuarant, food chain etc…is employing illegal workers – then send them a message and don’t do business with them. Ask the same question of any contractor doing work on your house about their employees – don’t turn a blind eye to who they are bringing into your home. Demand that their crew be US citizens. As long as Americans continue to support those establishments that use illegal workers then they have no financial incentive to not use them.

  34. sendillegalshomenow Feb. 17 at 6:05 pm

    well lets come to goldsboro,nc and round up all these illegals why the goverment is pretending to do something.We have lopez brothers roofing advertising in the yellow pages (I wish ice would call them for a estimate)They are three illegal brothers.arrest and deport all these illegal criminals>I am tired of all these farmers crying about they cant find help,well if they would quit being so greedy and share a little of the wealth they will find some americans to do the work.No american deserves any less than 15 dollars a hour.So if these people can afford new tractors and afford a new 50 thousand dollar kitchen they can afford to pay legal americans a fair wage

  35. sendillegalshomenow Feb. 17 at 6:12 pm

    10 million illegals in this country we send 150 billion to egypt every year,and the united states cant afford to round up these illegals,well that is crap.stop 1 year worth of payments to egypt and that would be like 15 thousand for every illegal in the united states,deputize any legal citezen and pay them 5 thousand for every illegal they round up.There we go,people have jobs people have money and we ridd our country from these criminals

  36. Andrey Lado Feb. 18 at 7:06 a.m.

    U.S. can easily print another 10 trillion dollars by 2020.

    Scientific advances – a cure for the global crisis. Which company doctor crisis: Google, Youtube, Skype, Apple, Wi-Fi, Samsung, Sony, and others.

    Example 1. Apple launched the iphone and Ipad demand in the world to them exactly 2 billion pieces, so it is possible for people to sell them to issue loans to $ 2 trillion.

    2. Google and Sony are doing TV with Skype, demand for 1 billion people, you can print $ 1 trillion under the new TVs

    3. Skype has launched a video and preparing to launch video conferencing to 100 simultaneous users, the demand for 1 billion people, then skype, you can print and issue a credit of 100 billion dollars to improve.

    What else can print trillions of dollars and a grant? On what will be: to improve, simplify, accelerate, and reduce weight.

    1. Windows is outdated, we need a new operating system to load instantly, and was simple – demand – 4 billion people – you can print and give Apple $ 1 trillion under the new system.

    2. Wi-Fi should entangle all the inhabitants of the world’s high-speed Internet – demand – 5 billion people, and everyone is willing to pay $ 1000 a year, you can print – $ 5 trillion.

    In the Computer – the Internet world, you can easily put another 10 trillion

    I gave her examples, and you have an idea of what you can print trillions?


  37. Dirk Feb. 18 at 2:43 pm

    Yo Silvia,there is a program available its called legal immigration,its worked for millions and generations before you.Despite your feeling of importance there will be no back door amnesty or special treatment.Adios

  38. sendillegalshomenow Feb. 18 at 6:46 pm

    All I know is that legal americans are going to band together very soon and demand the united states rid our country from these illegal mexicans,because if we dont every state will be just like california with all the mexican drug dealers and murderers that come from mexico.IT IS JUST NOT A FAIR TRADE OFF ANY LONGER.ARREST AND SEND TO PRISON I WILL BE GLAD TO PAY A EXTRA TAX TO GET RID OF THESE ILLEGAL MEXICAN CRIMINALS