On the same day that a letter was sent to Congress requesting immigration reform, another document - an audit - came out acknowledging the significant fine reductions some businesses are getting after having been initially penalized for hiring undocumented immigrants.
The letter was authored by over 630 American businesses that wanted Congress to understand the importance immigration reform has on the country's economy. It was signed by the likes of Apple, Inc., Facebook, and the National Retail Federation. These businesses are requesting that Congress make a decision and finally pass the immigration reform bill that has been stalled in Congress for months now.
On the same day this letter was sent, an audit was made public, showing how some businesses are receiving reduced penalties after employing undocumented immigrants. The audit was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general. The report stated that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was reducing company fines by up to 40%. In one instance, a business's initial fine was $4.9 million, but was dropped to a little over $1 million. This equals out to a 78% decrease.
Keep in mind that these decreases are completely legal and are nothing new or even out of the ordinary. While some argue that they impede upon the work of agencies that are trying to better enforce these related regulations, the argument is probably best described as misplaced.
This latest audit brings to light an interesting debate between those who advocate for immigration reform and those who do not. Some claim that while the argument always goes back to the undocumented individuals themselves, the focus should be transferred to employers when the discussion is related to undocumented workers. For instance, ICE had previously announced its plan to conduct more I-9 form audits in small businesses around the country. These audits are meant to ensure that all businesses are complying with federal law, as it applies to undocumented and documented workers.
However, certain camps feel as though there were not as many audits done as there could have been over the past few years. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, has noted that “[s]ome field offices are conducting worksite enforcement . . . . Others do not take it seriously and are just going through the motions. Their goal is to rack up enough audits so that the administration can use the numbers to claim that it is vigorously enforcing the law.”
The report noted that, initially, “ICE submitted notices totaling fines of more than $52.7 million from 2009 through 2012, but ended up charging only $31.2 million.” While those numbers sound steep, it is still a substantial increase over the fines imposed during the Bush Administration. In fact, between the years of 2003-2008, there were only $1.5 million charged fines.
So, how do you read this report? Do you think that the report is telling us anything we did not already know? In addition, what will be gained or lost with the publication of this audit?