Over a 12-month period ending in March, not one U.S. company was prosecuted for hiring illegal immigrants, according to a tracking system created by Syracuse University.
In addition, only 11 individuals were prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers and only a few of those received any jail time.
In contrast, Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) found that nearly 86,000 individuals during that 12-month period were prosecuted for illegal entry to the U.S. and nearly 35,000 were nabbed for illegal re-entry. The TRAC system relies on Justice Department statistics of enforcement activity on a case-by-case basis.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency claims that “ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.” But actual prosecutions have been scarce for many years.
TRAC’s newest report offers some conclusions:
Not only are few employers prosecuted, fewer who are convicted receive sentences that amount to more than token punishment. Prison sentences are rare. For example, of the 11 individuals the Justice Department reported as convicted during the most recent 12-month period for which data are available (April 2018 – March 2019), only three were sentenced to serve prison time.
… Given the millions of undocumented immigrants now living and working in this country, the odds of being criminally prosecuted for employing undocumented workers appears to be exceedingly remote.
Criminal penalties for employers were first enacted by Congress in 1986 but since then prosecutions have rarely climbed above 15 nationwide over any 12-month period. They have never exceeded 20 per year except for brief periods — during 2005 under President George W. Bush and in the first year of the Obama administration.
TRAC shows that prosecutions of employers since President Trump assumed office roughly parallel the number that occurred after Obama’s first year.
The Center for Public Integrity, a news organization that specializes in investigative journalism, reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly urged Congress to open a path to legalization for workers long embedded in their communities. Business associations favor a revamped worker visa system to replace one they say doesn’t allow companies or farmers to fix labor shortages legally.
As for the enforcement side of the immigration process, nearly all of the arrests involve migrants seeking work in the U.S., not those employers who hire them. Among the legislative proposals that have gone nowhere on Capitol Hill is the long-delayed plan to mandate that employers use E-Verify, a high-tech system for checking the authenticity of worker’s documents.