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US Workplace Immigration Inquiries Quadruple Under Trump

06:00  06 december  2019
06:00  06 december  2019 Source:   online.wsj.com

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Investigators with Immigration and Customs Enforcement have opened about four times the number of workplace investigations in the year ended Sept. ICE’s focus on workplace enforcement—targeting both immigrants working illegally and their employers—has intensified in the past two years.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is cracking down on immigrants working illegally. The Wall Street Journal reports ICE agents are focusing on workplace probes — opening about four times the number of investigations under President Trump when compared with the close of the

a man standing in front of a car© Gregory Bull/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened about four times the number of workplace investigations in the year ended Sept. 30 compared with the close of the Obama administration, while starting fewer probes into gangs, weapons and financial crimes, according to new figures the agency provided to The Wall Street Journal.

ICE’s focus on workplace enforcement—targeting both immigrants working illegally and their employers—has intensified in the past two years. Homeland Security Investigations, the ICE arm that carries out criminal investigations, opened 6,812 new workplace cases in the 2019 fiscal year, up from 1,701 during fiscal 2016. The agency made 2,048 administrative arrests, primarily of illegal immigrants, up roughly 500 from the year before.

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President Donald Trump ’s deputies have doubled workplace enforcement actions against companies which hire illegals instead of Americans. Others said this operation is one of the biggest illegal immigrant sweeps they’ve seen in recent years.

ICE carried out one of its most-high-profile investigations in August, raiding several food-processing plants in Mississippi and detaining about 680 immigrants working in the country illegally.

President Trump has focused his immigration crackdown on preventing new immigrants from crossing the border illegally and discouraging those who do cross from seeking legal protections such as asylum that allow them to stay and work. The data show that, in the past two years, the administration has also put a greater emphasis on enforcement efforts that make it tougher for illegal immigrants to find jobs.

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The emphasis on immigration enforcement is new for Homeland Security Investigations, a law-enforcement agency under ICE with a broad mandate to go after international gangs, weapons, drug smuggling and human trafficking. Agents work on cases from bitcoin seizure to art theft.

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“With ICE, people don’t often make it past the ‘I,’” said Alysa Erichs, the acting executive associate director for Homeland Security Investigations. “We are so much more than immigration.”

Agency officials said that, in recent years, some state and local law-enforcement agencies have expressed unwillingness to work with its criminal investigators, even on cases unrelated to immigration, because they oppose some of ICE’s deportation practices. A separate arm of ICE known as Enforcement and Removal Operations handles immigrant detention and deportation.

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Under Mr. Trump ’s proposal, those numbers would be reversed, with nearly 60 percent of all visas going to immigrants with particular skills or offers That reversal would increase the overall education level of immigrants , the officials said, with nearly three-quarters of those migrating to the United

NIJC's Keren Zwick discusses how the community and legal service providers like NIJC are preparing for the possibility of increased enforcement actions at workplaces . Read the story.

In June 2018, 19 regional directors inside Homeland Security Investigations signed a letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, asking her to spin the investigative division off from ICE altogether.

The sharper focus on immigration hasn’t brought the agency’s other work to a halt. Overall, it made 37,547 criminal arrests during fiscal 2019, a 10% increase from the prior year. That total—which typically doesn’t count immigrants arrested for deportation—included increases in human-trafficking and drug-related crimes, as well as crimes tied to immigration, such as employer violations.

Investigators confiscated roughly 2,500 more pounds of opioids than in the previous year, a 26% increase, and about 1,000 more pounds of fentanyl, a 35% rise in the highly concentrated synthetic opioid that frequently leads users to overdose.

Still, the number of new cases the agency opens is a good indicator of its current priorities, as arrests and seizures can sometimes come months or years after an investigation has been opened, former U.S. immigration officials said.

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Workplace raids have become more common under Mr. Trump , whose strict enforcement agenda has pushed the population of detained immigrants to the highest levels in history. Homeland Security Investigations opened about 6,850 workplace investigations last year, a jump from about 1

The Art & Science of Work . ICE to Quadruple Workplace Raids in 2018. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ordered the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit to “ quadruple to quintuple” the current number of routine workplace investigations of U.S. employers in the coming year.

In addition to the increase in new workplace-enforcement cases, the agency has opened more than double the number of border-related cases since 2016 and 24% more identity and benefit-fraud cases.

Meanwhile, new investigations of transnational gangs have dropped 54% since 2016, and probes of weapons smuggling fell by 43% during the same period.

Matthew Allen, Ms. Erichs’ acting deputy, said the agency is focusing on opening fewer but bigger cases, aiming to make more arrests with each investigation. Mr. Allen said the shift in case openings toward more immigration enforcement indicates the administration’s focus.

“In the end, the numbers are the numbers,” he said. “If you look at any police agency, they end up reflecting the priority of their administration. We’re no different.”

While the administration has stepped up workplace enforcement, the number of employers and managers arrested for hiring illegal immigrants has fallen each year since the final year of the Obama administration. The agency made 40 employer arrests in 2019, down from 72 in 2018.

Mr. Allen said that, after recent successful workplace raids, the agency hopes to arrest many more employers.

“It’s much more difficult and longer term to get employers and managers in the company charged,” he said. Federal law requires that, to convict an employer for hiring illegal immigrants, investigators must be able to prove the employer knew about the workers’ legal status.

Write to Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com

ICE Arrests and Deportations From the Interior U.S. Drop in 2019 .
The decline comes despite a pledge from the president earlier this year that immigration officials would begin removing ‘millions’ of immigrants in the country illegally. The threat sparked fear in immigrant communities and sent families and political leaders scrambling. Authorities in August did conduct a high-profile raid at a group of Mississippi food-processing plants that resulted in some 680 arrests and was said to be the largest such action in a decade. But mass enforcement operations on the scale the president suggested never materialized.

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