During the audits Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents review company records to determine if employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.
The audits are part of the Barack Obama administrations strategy of downplaying high-profile immigration raids, which have often been met by public protests, and relying on other measures to intimidate immigrants and divide working people.
Since 2007 more than 600 miles of fencing has been built along the U.S-Mexico border. With the addition of hundreds more cops earlier this year, there are now more than 20,000 border patrol agents stationed there.
In July ICE launched 652 audits, including one at American Apparel in Los Angeles. That led American Apparel to fire some 1,800 workers after ICE said they did not have proper work permits.
ICE says it is focusing on companies that have a connection to public safety and national securityfor example, privately owned critical infrastructure and key resources.
But the day of the announcement, immigration agents served subpoenas on at least four Vermont dairy farms, demanding access to their records. Some 2,000 Mexican immigrants work on dozens of dairy farms in the state.
The Secure Communities program, which checks the fingerprints of every prisoner in local jails against a Homeland Security database, is now being used in 95 cities and counties. In the first year of the program 111,000 people picked up by the cops on a variety of charges have been marked for deportation. Washington hopes to expand this to every jail in the United States by 2012.
The number of companies using the E-Verify program, which allows bosses to use an Internet system to verify the immigration status of new hires, has been growing by nearly 2,000 a week. More than 169,000 companies now use the system.
In a November 13 speech to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano made clear what the Obama administration means by immigration reform.
The most important part of the reform, Napolitano said, is serious and effective enforcement of immigration laws. She called for increasing fines on companies that hire undocumented workers.
She called for a tough pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Among the hurdles she proposes imposing on these workers before they would be allowed to apply for legal status is to register, pay a fine, pay back taxes, pass a criminal background check, and learn English.
One ominous part of Napolitanos speech was her accusation that corrupt immigration attorneys knowingly help immigrants fraudulently seek asylum or permanent residence.
Some immigrant rights groups glossed over the anti-immigrant framework of the Obama administrations reform proposals, calling Napolitanos promise of passage of a reform bill in 2010 welcome news.
A statement on the Fair Immigration Reform Movements Web site, which says it includes 30 immigrant rights groups across the United States, said no shock there in reference to Napolitanos vow to keep prioritizing enforcement of anti-immigrant laws.
A week after the speech, Napolitano announced a new reward for companies that enroll in E-Verify, undergo an I-9 employment record audit, and sign a partnership agreement with ICE. Those companies will be allowed to advertise their products with a seal that says I E-Verify with a waving American flag.
The program was announced at a symposium that included representatives from Cargill Meat Solutions, Keystone Foods, Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart, Marriot International, Talent Tree, and General Dynamics.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home