A construction worker chants along with protestors as they march through downtown Seattle in support of Daniel Ramirez Medina, who was detained by U.S. immigration authorities, in Seattle, Washington, U.S. February 17, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
By Will Racke
The Trump administration’s top immigration agent said Tuesday that he plans to ramp up investigations of businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan said the agency will prioritize worksite enforcement as a way to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S.
“Unless you remove the magnets [for illegal immigration], as long as they think they can come here and get U.S. citizenship and not get removed, they’re going to keep coming,” Homan said. “As long as they can come here and get a job, they’re going to try and come. So we are stepping up worksite enforcement.”
Homan said he studied the amount of time ICE agents were spending on workplace investigations and determined he wanted those efforts to increase by “four to five times.” In addition to bringing charges against companies that violate employment law, he said, ICE will also initiate deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants found at worksites.
“We’re going to do it a little differently than we’ve done it,” Homan said. “We’re going to prosecute the employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, and we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers.”
The Trump administration has already initiated legal action against several companies that either knowingly hired illegal immigrants or used guest worker visas to discriminate against native-born job applicants.
Earlier this month, Asplundh Tree Expert Co. pleaded guilty to a running a scheme to employ illegal workers and was ordered to pay a total of $95 million, the biggest penalty ever levied in an immigration case.
Before the Asplundh settlement, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division sued a Colorado company for allegedly hiring foreign guest workers at the expense of qualified U.S. citizens. The lawsuit was the first under the DOJ’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, a program initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to investigate employment discrimination on the basis of U.S. citizenship.
At Heritage, Homan said those types of enforcement actions would become a bigger priority in the coming year.
“We’re taking worksite enforcement very hard this year,” he said. “We’ve already increased the number of inspections and worksite operations, you’re going to see that significantly increase this next fiscal year.”