A seven-month crackdown on restaurateurs and other employers has already uncovered nearly twice as many instances of aliens allegedly working without proper documentation as federal immigration officials found in all of fiscal 2017, the Trump administration said Monday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it conducted 2,282 I-9 audits of worksites between Oct. 1 and May 4, compared with 1,360 between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, the federal government’s last full fiscal year. ICE worksite investigations of all sorts have already topped 3,510 thus far in fiscal 2018, a jump from the 1,716 in the prior 12 months.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas Honan called for the crackdown last fall to “ensure U.S. businesses maintain a culture of compliance,” ICE said in a statement.
Last fiscal year’s violations cost employers $97.5 million in forfeitures, fines and restitution, and another $7.8 million in civil fines, ICE said. It did not reveal the year-to-date figures for fiscal 2018.
The focus on employer compliance with federal worker documentation laws is part of the Trump Administration’s effort to enforce immigration laws more aggressively. Not all of that effort is focused on the employer. Last week, ICE arrested 11 employees of the Montezuma restaurant group in central Pennsylvania for working in violation of the rules.
At least one branch of the three-unit chain was forced to close temporarily, according to local news reports.
The exact charges lodged against the 11 were not disclosed by the Pennsylvania office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.
“The focus of these targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis,” ICE officials said in a statement issued after the Pennsylvania raids.