Local News

Obama's policy on illegal immigration worries some companies

Posted October 22, 2009

— U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's latest estimate on the number of illegal immigrants in the country is anywhere from 12 million to 20 million, with a suspected 350,000 in North Carolina.

The Bush administration tried to reduce that number by trying to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new strategy under the Obama administration that now also goes after an illegal immigrant's employer and its managers.

Illegal-immigration policy worries some companies Illegal-immigration policy worries some companies

"Under the Bush administration, it was more of a big-bang worksite raid, arrest illegal aliens, hit the news," said Bernhard Mueller, a labor and employment attorney with the Ogletree Deakins law firm in Raleigh.

Worksite raids across the country led to thousands of illegal immigrants being detained in recent years. In August 2007, for example, ICE agents raided a meat packing plant in Bladen County and charged 28 people with identity theft for assuming identities of real U.S. citizens to falsify citizenship and seek employment. Last year, six people were detained after a raid on a Raleigh restaurant.

Mueller says the new strategy is a wake-up call to employers.

"It's not a pretty picture for them. They ought to be concerned," he said.

ICE has launched a new initiative to audit hiring records and I-9s -- the form every new hire fills out to verify identity and employment eligibility – of current and past employees.

Last year, 503 companies nationwide received inspection notices. This year, Homeland Security notified 652 companies in one day.

"It is one of those things causing indigestion among the employment community," said George Ports with Capital Associated Industries Inc., an employer association in North Carolina with approximately 1,000 members.

This week, it offered a seminar to address I-9 compliance because of the Homeland Security audits.

"It's a concern of employers, especially if they have a high percentage of Latinos," Ports said.

Immigration officials have said they are looking for companies that knowingly hired illegal workers. But Mueller says, that's not necessarily the case.

"The government is trying to show – wrongfully, I believe, or rightfully in some cases – that the company, in fact, knows or should have known, and that's a dangerous standard (that it) should have known."

He says industries known to hire low-skill, low-pay labor, such as the housing industry, are among those being targeted.

Lisa Martin, who represents the North Carolina Homebuilders Association, says she hopes the process is systematic and fair.

"We support the enforcement of immigration laws," Martin said. "They need to be targeting people that are willingly evading the law or are just not in compliance, knowingly."

As jobs have dried up during the recession, thousands of Latinos in North Carolina have returned to their home countries.

Homeland Security believes that, by stopping companies from hiring illegal workers, it gets to the root of the immigration problem.

Tony Asion, director of the statewide advocacy group El Pueblo, says he's already hearing of unintended consequences.

"What (companies) do is deny the job (to a Latino), and it could very well be to a legal U.S.-born Latino who is here," he said.

Having represented many clients who were recently audited, Mueller offers this advice: "Get your house in order. Conduct internal reviews of all your I-9 forms."

He adds that if an employer did not know someone was illegal, but ignored the warning signs, the penalty could be jail time and a fine.

Audits that turn up I-9 forms that are not completely or accurately filled out could cost employers up to $1,100 per form.

106 Comments

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  • AtALost Oct 23, 6:42 p.m.

    "So if gov't contracts are bidded out and the lowest bidder wins, and that contractor employs illegal aliens, is the gov't going to be responsible and be fined?"

    No, the contractor is the employer who hired the illegals so the contractor would be fined. Same as when you hire a company to repair your house. It doesn't make you responsible for the people they employ.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Oct 23, 6:07 p.m.

    Obama is finally doing something right for the first time during his presidency.

    If you scare employers into not hiring illegal immigrants who are criminals who are in this country illegally, the illegal immigrants will go home.

    No job, no reason to illegally come to the United States.

  • lorivalentine1 Oct 23, 5:54 p.m.

    It is about time the US is taking this issue more seriously. If you are legal and you know someone Illegal stop supporting them and tell them to GO HOME. be patriotic and buy them a one way ticket home. Illegals are hurting legal american citizens chances of a jobs and benefits by being here sucking the life out of resources meant for legal citizens.

  • rescuefan Oct 23, 5:26 p.m.

    "You are right...I'm sure every one of them were here legally. Why you should have heard their grasp of the English language. It was absolutely phenomenal! And I suppose they all had a better education than I did too, and that's why they got the jobs. Puhleeze!!!!!!
    Suchagoodboy"

    I didn't realize that people were not allowed to speak their native language amongst themselves when they live legally the US. This is the kind of prejudice that hispanics who live here legally face daily.

  • Tax Man Oct 23, 5:18 p.m.

    We also should be checking social security numbers for people renting and buying homes. We should not allow housing for criminal aliens! If they have no place to stay and no place to work then they will leave! Very simple. Fine landlords and employers who house the criminals - it is because of them the illegals come - so they should bear the punishment and we should send the criminal aliens home, at the cost of the employers and landlords! And once an illegal is deported they should be permanently banned from entering the US! Make it difficult on the criminals and those who harbor them, make it easy on those who do it legally and get the Visas and Immigration Permission to come here! Reward good - Punish Evil!

  • Tax Man Oct 23, 5:00 p.m.

    This should have been going on since 1984! It is very easy and free to check the status of new hires on the Social Security e-verify website. You just need the social security number, name and date of birth from the employee - all this is on the I-9 Form and the NC New Hire Form that each employers MUST have before they hire someone. It is instant - and if it says OK you hire the person, if not, you give them the information to contact Social Security and fix the problem, before you hire them! Also, the Employment Security Commission verifies valid Social Security Numbers when you file the Unemployment Tax Forms - so there is NO excuse for having an illegal employee! NONE. So fine and imprison the folks who are hiring the criminal immigrants and they will go away! Just do it. Big fines make it not profitable to hire illegals. Have them go back home and apply for a work visa - then come in legally! Duh!

  • ScottW76 Oct 23, 4:49 p.m.

    "Amnesty only encourages more illegal immigration. It tells the next 20 million that they will get away with it like the previous 20 million and the previous 5 million before them."

    I said it before; most of them don't want amnesty because then they would have to pay taxes and also couldn't reap the benefits of the social service programs that they take advantage of. They take "Land of the free" to a sad new level.

    Fine the employers and force them to hire legal resident aliens and U.S. citizens.

  • MakoII Oct 23, 4:18 p.m.

    North Carolina has an estimated population of Hispanics at 378,963 and of that the estimate of Illegal Hispanics is 206,000 putting us ninth on the list.

    Since 1/2 of the Hispanics you see are legal I can't imagine the litmus tests people use outside of pure prejudice.

    The place I grew up had 2 official languages: English and Spanish so all public signs had to be posted in both.

    As far as I'm concerned, America is a country of many native languages, Indian's included.

    Considering the Angle language underwent a HUGE change under the Norman French conquest, I imagine it will undergo some small changes with respect to other languages like it already has.

    What IS English? A hodgepodge of many languages.

    Perhaps we should rename some of our non-English names states, rivers, lakes, etc?

    And Baton Rouge? Definitely OUT! Red Stick indeed...

  • 2Leo Oct 23, 4:14 p.m.

    Mako, I think you take yourself way too seriously. Oh, and I do have a conspiracy theory. GOLO must be conspiring with Mako and posting as much of his information as possible, to ensure that the Obama administration appoints him as the "MUST EDUCATE THE MASSES" czar.

    Have a sense of humor.

  • steve1614 Oct 23, 4:06 p.m.

    "I don't know about those specific countries, but most countries give the child BORN on their native soil the chance to DECLARE their citizenship when they turn 18.

    I had a friend born on an American base in Greece and when he turned 18 he could have chosen to be a citizen of Greece. UNTIL he turned 18, he was a citizen of Greece AND America.

    Some countries allow multiple citizenship, others don't.

    The argument here is largely those who cross the border. Not those born here.

    Some people don't like those born here being American Citizens, but then again, they don't like MOST American Citizens anyhow.

    Welcome to the club, kids!"

    Mako,

    I assume your friend that was born on the base in Greece was born to parents who were there legally! Would he have received citizenship if he were born to parents who were there illegally? Probably not!

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