April 1999 Volume 6 Number 4
INS: Fewer Workplace Raids
The INS, which has 1,750 agents for interior enforcement, announced in March that its current enforcement strategy is not reducing the number of illegal immigrants. Over the next five years, the INS said that it would adopt a new interior enforcement strategy that de-emphasizes workplace raids, and instead concentrates on removing criminal aliens and cracking down on alien smuggling rings and document counterfeiters.
The goal of the new strategy is to "reduce the size and annual growth of the illegal resident population." INS officials say that their top priorities are: (1) to remove criminal aliens, there are 221,000 foreign-born criminals in federal, state or local jails--two-thirds of them illegal immigrants--plus 142,000 foreigners on parole or probation and subject to removal, and 161,000 foreigners who are absconders, that is, persons who disappeared after receiving deportation/removal orders; and (2) to go after smugglers.
The INS hopes to dismantle recruitment and smuggling networks that facilitate the entry and employment of illegal workers, rather than to fine employers who inadvertently hire unauthorized workers. The INS also wants to minimize the cost of detaining and deporting unauthorized workers who are picked up in workplace raids that disrupt production and often bring complaints from employers and advocates.
Joe Greene, INS district director in Denver and author of the new interior enforcement strategy, said that "80 to 85 percent of employers really want to comply with this law [employer sanctions], so let's help them do that." INS hopes to evaluate the effectiveness of its new interior enforcement strategy by examining: (1) trends in wages in industries that typically hire illegal immigrants; (2) local crime rates; and (3) trends in the cost of smuggling aliens or obtaining fraudulent immigration documents.
Workplace raids dropped sharply in the 1990s. In 1998, some 14,000 foreigners were apprehended in workplace raids. The Miami INS office, for example, investigated only 126 employers in 1998 compared to 711 in 1988. A workplace raid in Delmarva, in March 1999 removed 46 poultry workers from Chestertown Foods Inc.--the workers were provided to Chestertown Foods by a labor contractor, Chester Labor Servicing Corp.--34 of the unauthorized workers were Mexican and 12 were Indonesian. The owners of the Blue Mountain Stone Quarry in Larimer County, Colorado were among the first US employers who face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for harboring and employing undocumented immigrants. A Colorado farm labor contractor was sentenced to 15 months in prison in February 1999.
Some attribute the de-emphasis on workplace raids to the reaction to an April 23, 1998 raid at First Paragon Floral in Miami; three of the 23 workers arrested there were legal immigrants, and another eight were eligible for work permits. The workers were held in cold flower storage facilities and the resulting furor led to requirements that each INS office develop a "written plan" for each worksite raid and direction from INS headquarters to emphasize anti-smuggling rather than employer sanctions enforcement.
No Florida farmer has been fined for hiring illegal workers for the past three years, and no Florida farm labor contractor has been fined in the past decade. A senior INS field manager said "We basically have ceased worksite enforcement" in response to a lack of political support. Workplace raids often produce complaints from agricultural and business groups and their lawyers, ethnic lobbies and civil rights groups.
The INS in Washington subpoenaed and checked the I-9 information of employees of 13 Yakima-area apple packing plants in January-February 1999, identified about 1,700 unauthorized workers and ordered the plants to fire about 562 workers unless they can clear up discrepancies in their status--the other workers quit or were let go in seasonal layoffs. The percentage of unauthorized workers varied from 10 to 70 percent at the packing plants checked by INS. There are about 15,000 apple-packing workers in Washington, most of whom earn about $8 an hour-- many are Mexican-born women.
By issuing do-not-hire letters, the INS is hoping to get employers to fire illegal workers, but avoid the cost of detaining and deporting the unauthorized workers. It is not clear whether the workers who are fired will leave the area. Some local residents criticized the INS for not apprehending and deporting the illegal workers, rather than simply ordering employers to fire them.
Washington asparagus farmers, who begin the six-week harvest of 22,000 acres with 6,500 workers in mid-April, worried that INS raids would lead to labor shortages. Washington and California each produce about 40 percent of US asparagus.
The INS effort to get employers to fire unauthorized workers was criticized by employers, the Teamsters, the union trying to organize apple-packing workers and migrant advocates. In January 1998, the Teamsters lost elections at Stemilt Growers Inc and Washington Fruit and Produce. If there is consistent INS pressure on the apple industry to screen workers for legal status, it is likely that there will be more labor-saving automation. Bob Mathison of Stemilt Growers Inc. was quoted in the Seattle Times on January 4, 1998 as saying: "We are blessed with a bountiful labor supply. If there is something we want done, we throw bodies at it and they cost $7.50 an hour...You saw those people turning apples in the same direction? If we have to pay $ 12 an hour, those people are gone," replaced by apple-sorting machines.
The INS announced that it is expanding the Basic Pilot employment eligibility confirmation system to Nebraska, where Operation Vanguard is using do-not-hire letters to keep illegal workers out of the work force in beef and pork processing. Under Basic Pilot, employers may submit information on newly hired employees to the INS and Social Security Administration to verify the right to work in the US. The Basic Pilot currently operates in five states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.
The INS announced that it would establish quick-response teams in areas that recently began to receive large numbers of migrants to deal with tips and complaints; the teams are to be positioned in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Utah, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Colorado.
A Los Angeles-area garment firm, Aztec Productions, that demanded an INS work authorization document from a Latino US citizen, paid $27,000 to settle a charge that the firm unlawfully discriminated in hiring, including $5,000 in back pay. The man presented a driver's license and Social Security card, and was told to return with an INS work authorization document. When he returned with proof of US citizenship, he was told that all vacant jobs had been filled.
The Department of Justice's office of immigration-related unfair-employment practices, which is not part of INS, administers the anti-discrimination provisions of IRCA. The offices says that it has collected about $1 million in civil fines for discrimination and nearly $2 million in back pay for would-be workers who were not hired by employers who demanded excess documents. In 1996, the law was changed to require DOJ to prove that an employer intended to discriminate before the employer could be fined.
Border Enforcement. The Clinton administration came under fire in March for not requesting funding for the 1,000 additional Border Patrol agents in FY00 as required by IIRIRA; INS requested 1,000 additional agents, but the request was not included in the President's FY00 budget. Attorney General Reno defended the decision not to request more agents, noting that the number of agents had increased from 4,000 in 1995 to an authorized 9,000 in 1999, and that 39 percent of current agents have less than two years experience--1,000 agents are expected to be hired in FY99.
The Border Patrol apprehended 1,555,776 foreigners in FY98, including 3,000 at the US-Canadian border. However, the number of Asians being smuggled into the US through Canada is believed to be increasing, especially as Chinese apply for asylum in Canada and then disappear--neither Canada nor the US detains most asylum seekers. The INS in March 1999 had 7,357 Border Patrol agents on the US-Mexican border, 289 on the US-Canadian border, and 54 in Florida.
In San Diego, a man was sentenced to almost 10 years in prison for smuggling a convicted felon into the United States. The law leaves open the question whether the government must prove that the smuggler knew that he was transporting a criminal.
Some 503 million persons were inspected as they entered the US in FY98, an average 1.4 million a day. During the third annual U.S.-Mexico Border Conference in March 1999, it was stated that Mexican citizens who cross legally spend $3.5 billion each year in U.S.-border businesses from California to Texas. Business leaders complained that delays crossing the border cost them money.
After the INS stationed a van near an elementary school in Arizona, and arrested five Mexican nationals, school attendance dropped by nearly a third because residents were afraid to send their children to school.
Cubans and Haitians continued to arrive in south Florida in March 1999; many take slow boats to the Bahamas, and then rely on high-speed powerboats to smuggle them into the US at West Palm Beach. By the end of March, six months into FY99, over 850 Cubans had been reported in south Florida--if they touch US soil, Cubans are allowed to remain.
There were reports that several boats sank, with estimates of 40 to 100 Haitians drowning in each incident; in December 1992, an estimated 396 Haitians drowned when a smuggling boat bound for the US sank near Cuba. Haiti has almost eight million residents, with half in Port-au-Prince; the economy depends mostly on foreign aid.
The US Coast Guard spent about $77 million intercepting boats carrying illegal migrants during FY98; about twice as much was spent to combat drug smugglers. The Coast Guard has stopped 2,641 Cubans and 4,720 Haitians since January 1995.
Detention. The Miami Herald profiled the reforms being implemented at Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida. Krome is the main INS detention center in the Southeast, and the passage of the 1996 immigration law resulted in a doubling to 400 aliens, most convicted criminals, detained at Krome. In 1997, several Krome administrators were disciplined after they released and transferred detainees in order to hide overcrowding from a visiting congressional delegation.
One of two convicted felons who escaped from Krome in January was captured in a North Miami-Dade trailer park. The Cuban man came to the US in the 1980 Mariel boatlift, spent nine years in jail for robbery and kidnapping and will be detained indefinitely because the Cuban government does not accept the return of criminals.
In fall 1998, Krome hired a new administrator, an expert in prison management, who installed vending machines in the dorms, improved the phones and established a law library. Krome has 300 employees and 43 of them are in the midst of disciplinary proceedings. The Clinton administration has earmarked $10 million for improvements at Krome in the proposed 2000 budget. The INS's Florence Service Processing Center in Arizona was declared a model facility by the American Bar Association.
Nancy Cleeland, "Employers Welcome New INS Policy, but Remain Skeptical," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1999. William Branigin, "INS Shifts 'Interior' Strategy to Target Criminal Aliens Critics Say Plan to Curtail Work-Site Raids Will Hurt Immigration Compliance," Washington Post, March 15, 1999. Tim Steller, "Border Patrol wants to grow despite Reno," Arizona Daily Star, March 13, 1999. Julie Amparano and Becky Ramsdell, "Border Patrol Sweep angers parents," Arizona Republic, March 3, 1999. . Andres Viglucci, "Inside Krome: Ending years of abuses is a daunting task," Miami Herald, February 28, 1999.