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National Restaurant Association - Federal government steps up workplace immigration enforcement

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Federal government steps up workplace immigration enforcement

The Department of Homeland Security's Immigrations & Customs Enforcement office defended its worksite enforcement strategy at a recent Capitol Hill hearing.

At a Jan. 26 House Judiciary subpanel hearing on "ICE Worksite Enforcement: Up to the Job?" an ICE witness testified that the agency launched more than 2,700 investigations of employers for hiring unauthorized workers in FY 2010, more than twice the nearly 1,200 conducted in FY 2008. The federal government levied $7 million in fines against employers in FY 2010, up from about $675,000 in FY 2008. ICE first announced an aggressive approach to I-9 audits and workplace investigations in April 2009.

Subpanel chair Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) was among those who said the Obama Administration isn't doing enough to deal with illegal workers. Gallegly and ICE both pressed for more employer use of E-Verify, the electronic verification system to check whether new hires are eligible to work in the United States.

E-Verify was piloted in 1997, went online in 2005, was made mandatory for many federal contractors and subcontractors in 2009, and is now mandatory for at least some businesses in 14 states. About 238,000 businesses use the system, the DHS reports. The NRA has formed an E-Verify task force to study problems with the system.

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