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Large-Scale cooperative Worksite Enforcement Operations ulilizing The Phoenix "RESTORE" Methodologies -- Williams-Burgess



It has been well over a decade since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) which created the authority to sanction employers who knowingly employ unauthorized aliens. The legislation continues, however, to confront the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS or the Service) with difficult issues concerning the methodologies utilized to effect its implementation. Specifically, how should the relative handful of field agents assigned to worksite enforcement duties be tasked and deployed so as to have the greatest beneficial impact, while simultaneously ensuring that the fourth amendment and due process rights of the workers and employers they encounter are adequately observed and protected?

The performance measures tasked to field offices in the years immediately following the passage of IRCA tended to emphasize the number of annual apprehensions as a quantifiable performance indicator. Gradually however, the program evolved and a realization formed that a national worksite enforcement strategy based upon arrest counts had not produced, and given projected staffing and resource levels was not likely to produce, the degree of deterrence necessary to achieve a reduction in the overall number of unauthorized workers. This acknowledgement came as a difficult surrender to reality, but it was officially incorporated into Service doctrine in 1999 in the comprehensive policy statement, Immigration and Naturalization Service Interior Enforcement Strategy1. That document calculated that it would require almost 35,000 work years to apprehend just undocumented immigrants who entered the United States in 1998. The national expenditure of field agent work years currently hovers around 300.

The new policy statement further acknowledged that traditional worksite "raids" had become an increasing source of complaints and were developing into an issue of growing concern at the local and national level. The complaints, regardless of merit, were seen to adversely impact public confidence in the credibility of Service enforcement efforts. The strategy paper also advocated a shift in program focus to the large-scale cooperative employer initiatives of the type that had been developed in Phoenix (Operation "Restore") and successfully exported to other jurisdictions, notably:

Operation "Cleansheet" and "Clean-up" in San Diego
Operation "Snowbird" in Yakima
Operation "Regain" in Anchorage
Operation "Partnership" in Los Angeles
Operation "Takeback" in San Francisco
The Phoenix approach differs from the traditional "raid" methodology in that it makes operational distinctions between those employers who are suspected of knowingly employing unauthorized workers, and those who are not. For those employers not suspected of knowing complicity in the employment of unauthorized workers, the traditional workplace "raid" is replaced with an audit of the Employment Eligibility Verification Forms (Form I-9) and an educational seminar. The audit determines which employees are unauthorized and the seminar provides instruction, in the form of a power-point presentation, on the various means by which an employer can hire and maintain a legal workforce. The topics include:

Fraudulent document recognition
Electronic verification options for employers
Social Security verification options
Replacement worker agencies
Discrimination issues
At the end of the seminar a case agent delivers to each employer a letter that lists those employees who were determined by the audit to be unauthorized. The letter specifies that the identity and employment eligibility of the listed employees must be re-verified in order for the employee to continue working. The agents also provide information on the procedures to assist any of the listed employees who wish to discuss their immigration status or who believe that their status was erroneously listed in the letter.

At a future date, the case agent visits the affected business to determine if the employees listed as unauthorized are still employed. If any of the undocumented workers named in the letter are then encountered, which is a very rare occurrence, they are interviewed and taken into custody if appropriate.

The following pages contain reports submitted by the three districts in which follow-up operations were conducted. Only the names of the impacted businesses have been omitted.



The following are the results of a follow-up inspection of five companies which were the subject of I-9 inspections conducted during Anchorage Worksite Enforcement Operation "Regain" in May-June, 1998.

Operation "Regain" involved the inspection of 200 businesses in which a total of 167 unauthorized workers were identified. One hundred-eight (or 67 percent) of the unauthorized aliens identified during the operation were employed by 5 companies comprising 32 worksite locations in the State. Each of the five companies subsequently sent a representative to the INS employer seminar that followed the inspections.


A follow-up inspection of the five companies was conducted in April, 1999 resulting in the identification of 53 unauthorized workers representing a 51 percent decrease in the number of unauthorized aliens.








One company (#4), a restaurant chain (3 locations) was the only business found to have increased the number of unauthorized workers, from 24 in 1998 to 34 in 1999, comprising 64 percent of the total identified during the follow-up inspection.

If not factored in, a total of 19 in the other four companies would represent a 73 percent decrease in unauthorized workers identified during the follow-up.

Another restaurant chain (3 locations), in which 31 unauthorized workers were identified in 1998, was found to have NO unauthorized workers in 1999. This is due in large part to the company's decision to utilize a Social Security Administration (SSA) toll free number provided at the Operation "Regain" employer seminar, as well as access to INS agents when questionable documents were presented. Per the Operations Manager of the chain, every newly hired employee's social security number is queried through SSA. Any discrepancy must be resolved with the local SSA office before employment commences.

It appears that those companies with a genuine interest in maintaining a legal workforce were provided the training and access to resources necessary to limit, or greatly reduce, the introduction of unauthorized aliens into their workforce.



Operation "Cleansheet" was conducted in the spring and summer of 1997 and encompassed 226 hotels in the San Diego area.
Thirty-nine of the hotels were found to be in violation of 274a verification requirements and were issued warning letters. Those hotels were re-inspected one year later and the results are shown below.
All of the hotels were provided training in the detection of fraud documents, the use of the social security hotline, and the electronic verification programs then available.


Results of the Initial Investigations of 39 Hotels Conducted During Operation "Cleansheet"

I-9s Inspected




402 (30.5%)




Same 39 Hotels One Year Later





13 (1.6%)






Operation "Snowbird" commenced in December of 1998 and targeted 13 employers in the Yakima area in the fruit packing industry.
Historically high concentrations of undocumented workers in this industry.
High rate of seasonal unemployment among authorized workers.
Legal replacement workers were readily available.
The records of over 2400 employees were checked through automated Service databases and it was determined that roughly 1700 were unauthorized.
An educational seminar for the impacted employers was conducted on February 10, 1999 and letters listing the unauthorized workers were delivered to each employer.
572 of the listed unauthorized employees were still working at the time of the seminar and were subsequently terminated.
Follow-up audits in March and April of 1999 revealed that 622 replacement workers had been hired to fill the positions left vacant by the unauthorized workers.
Based upon preliminary records checks 510 (82 percent) of the replacement workers were found to be authorized.
Three months after the educational seminar 11 of the 13 warehouses maintained a workforce composed of at least 90 percent authorized workers.

Search warrants were obtained and served for the two non-compliant warehouses.
Composition of Replacement Workforce Hired Subsequent to the Enforcement Operation


Replacement Workers Hired












#12 (2 locations)




The Border Safety Initiative (BSI), announced by INS Commissioner Meissner and Mexican Ambassador Reyes-Heroles on June 16, 1998, is an aggressive, bi-national strategy designed to reduce migrant deaths and make the border safer for migrants, officers, and border residents. This initiative is comprised of three elements: Prevention, Search and Rescue, and Identification.

Border Safety Initiative Elements


Reducing the number of migrant deaths and creating a safer border environment.

Bi-National Mapping

Border Patrol personnel and Mexican officials have identified dangerous crossing points along the entire Southwest border. The Border Patrol developed a bi-national mapping system to graphically depict where migrant deaths and rescues occur, based on a Global Positioning Satellite System. One sector has worked with Mexico to capture accurate data and pinpoint these locations within the United States and Mexico.

The following areas have been identified by the sectors as the most dangerous:

Tucson – West Desert Corridor and the Douglas/Naco Corridor

Yuma – Wellton Station area, the Colorado River, and the All-American Canal

El Centro – All-American Canal, western mountain area, entire sector during summer

San Diego – Tijuana River Valley, Otay Mountain, and the Japatul Valley/Mount Laguna area

Deployment of Technology and Resources

The Border Patrol deployed agents and mobile units to hazardous crossing points along the border including: Eastern San Diego County, the All-American Canal, the desert regions of Imperial County, California and Yuma, Arizona. These are areas that have been identified as the most hazardous areas, based on historical data of migrant deaths. Infrared scopes, high intensity lights, cameras, and sensors have been strategically placed in dangerous crossing areas to illuminate, monitor, and fortify our deterrence posture. New resources, if acquired, would be placed in the identified dangerous crossing locations and areas of great safety concern including remote ranches, deserts and mountainous areas.

Public Outreach Campaign

The INS has embarked on an aggressive public outreach campaign that includes public service announcements, posters, and placing stories with the local media to target potential illegal immigrants, as well as family members residing in the United States who may encourage illegal entries.


In June 1999, the INS and the Mexican government developed joint national public service

announcements and the INS worked through its overseas offices to air the announcements throughout Mexico and Central America. Over the past year, the border safety effort was expanded to include Cuban and Haitian smugglers, and recently began outreach efforts with the People’s Republic of China. The INS has recently began placing posters in district offices warning family members of the dangers of trusting their loved ones to the hands of a smuggler.

Our public outreach campaign is now a wide spread program being addressed from all levels:

Nationally through Headquarters initiatives
Internationally through INS overseas offices
Locally through individual Border Patrol Sectors and District Offices
Warning Signs

Border Patrol Sectors placed over seven hundred durable metal warning signs along the border and within the most dangerous crossing areas to give migrants one final warning of the perils they may face if they choose to cross illegally. Additionally, Mexican officials have also placed warning signs on their side of the border in an effort to protect migrants.


The BSI initially provided up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of smugglers who endangered the lives of migrants. This reward may now be authorized up to $25,000.

Bi-National Cooperation

United States – Mexican cooperation on the BSI occurs at many levels. Border safety is a key topic between top U.S. and Mexican officials at regular bi-national meetings, which are part of institutionalized mechanisms for bilateral cooperation.

In June 1999, the INS hosted the first bi-national BSI Conference. INS officials and Mexican immigration authorities met at the San Diego Sector Headquarters to discuss safety issues. The two governments agreed to work together to make the border region a safer place and re-emphasized their commitment to the joint priorities of reducing migrant deaths and targeting alien smugglers who endanger migrants. High level U.S. and Mexican officials have met several times since that first BSI Conference, in both the United States and Mexico, in furtherance of the goals set forth by the BSI and to renew our joint commitment to the BSI effort.

Strong cooperative efforts with Mexican officials are ongoing at the local level as well. Cooperation between Border Patrol Sectors and Mexican consuls continues to improve. Most Sectors have cultivated excellent working relationships with their Mexican counterparts. In addition, the Border Patrol has conducted joint rescue efforts with Mexico, provided rescue equipment and training to Grupo Beta agents and made the safe return of women and children a priority among all units in the field.



Maintaining sector preparedness in order to respond to people who become lost, abandoned, or distressed.

Safety Equipment and Training

The Border Patrol is working to ensure that all agents have advanced first aid training. Several southwest border sectors have programs in place to re-certify agents in basic first aid. Some sectors have certified Emergency Medical Technicians totaling 267 across the southwest border.

Hot and cold weather survival kits were distributed to the field in order to prepare agents to properly deal with emergent environmental situations. Border Patrol vehicles are equipped with extra water, electrolyte drinks, and trauma medical bags to assist people in the desert who are suffering from dehydration and/or hypothermia. All Border Patrol vehicles that patrol along the All-American Canal and Rio Grande River are equipped with water rescue equipment. Vehicles that operate specifically in arid desert environments are equipped with desert rescue equipment.

Search and Rescue Units

Although all southwest border sectors possess the capability of affecting rescues, three of the four Western Region sectors have established specialized search and rescue units. The remaining sectors have contingency plans and trained personnel for search and rescue missions on an as needed basis.

Rescue Hot lines

Southwest border sectors have set up toll-free hotlines for people to call if they believe friends or relatives (who recently crossed the border) may be in danger. When activated, Border Patrol agents have the ability to initiate searches and conduct rescues.

Air Support

One of the first goals of the BSI was to have the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) perform daily flights along the most dangerous areas associated with our southwest border. Their sole purpose was to search for migrants in distress. This program proved to be ineffective, however, because the altitudes that the CAP required their pilots to fly were too high to effectively spot distressed migrants.

Currently, Border Patrol pilots, in the performance of their duties, routinely identify and initiate responses to migrants in distress. All southwest border sectors have rotary wing aircraft available to conduct search and rescue missions. In addition, fixed wing aircraft is also used to further enhance this effort.



Decreasing the percentage of unidentified deceased migrants.

Humanitarian Response

Ensuring the proper identification and family notification of deceased migrants is a top priority. This is an issue of great concern, as almost 40 percent of all deceased migrants are unidentified. Identifying deceased migrants is problematic for many reasons including; cause of death, lack of identification or witnesses, and lack of autopsies. Although the Border Patrol will continue to share intelligence, run IDENT and CIS checks, and provide assistance where possible, increasing identification is dependent upon all deceased migrants receiving autopsies and the increased cooperation with local enforcement officials and foreign consuls. Although 97 percent of the identified deceased migrants were citizens of Mexico, the unidentified group is unknown. By conducting autopsies and archiving the relevant information, more deceased migrants will be identified.

Incident Tracking System


The BSI Incident Tracking System is the main repository for data collected on all migrant deaths and Border Patrol rescues in target counties along the U.S. Mexico border, and for migrant deaths that the Border Patrol responds to outside the target counties. The 44 target counties are tracked because of their proximity to the border or because historically migrants have traveled through these areas.

This migrant death data has been collected since FY98 and data on migrant rescues since FY99.


Migrant deaths in FY99 have decreased by 12 percent since FY98. Most migrant deaths have occurred in the El Centro Sector. Drowning has been the primary cause of migrant death for the past two fiscal years. Heat related deaths ranked second. The percentage of unidentified deceased migrants has decreased by 7 percent; however, 39 percent of all deaths were unidentified in FY99.

Additionally, the Border Patrol rescued 1043 migrants in 200 incidents during FY 99. Most were rescued from confined spaces and most rescue incidents involved heat exposure. Laredo Sector rescued the most people and El Centro had the most rescue incidents. Please refer to the graphs provided at the end of this report.

Current Projects/Future Goals

Border Safety Strategy

A border safety annex is being developed to augment the Border Patrol National Strategy. The finished product will include plans from stations, sectors, and regions. These strategies will


recognize that our major goals and primary BSI objectives are to reduce migrant deaths and effect rescues along the border. It will also ensure that the Border Patrol factors safety into every facet of the enforcement strategy.

Target Alien Smugglers

In order to ensure that we aggressively pursue alien smugglers who endanger the lives of migrants, the Border Patrol has entered into a joint project with the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), the INS intelligence program and the other INS components. Additionally, we intend to further promote the cooperation and sharing of information between the INS and the Mexican government.

BSI Intranet Website

A BSI web site, that will enable the field to enter migrant death and rescue records, is under construction. This web site will also allow users to retrieve current information on migrant deaths and rescues. The information provided would assist in the deployment of resources and the identification of unknown deceased persons.

Purchase Safety Equipment

Improve safety for officers and migrants by providing officers with better rescue equipment and safety training.

Mexican Liaison Program

Establish Mexican Liaison Units throughout all southwest border sectors to facilitate the sharing of information between the United States and Mexico, identify dangerous staging areas and crossing sites in Mexico, and aid the efforts of bi-national mapping and trend analysis.

Identification of Deceased Migrants

Although the identification of deceased migrants is a priority of the BSI, it is one that is primarily accomplished by the actions of others: local law enforcement, county medical examiners, and foreign consuls. The McAllen Border Patrol Sector reports the highest percentage and number of unidentified deceased migrants. The Sector is currently planning a conference to facilitate improved identification. Invited participants will include all local, county and State agencies involved in the identification of deceased persons as well as Mexican Consuls and other officials.

Measuring Effectiveness

Many aspects of the BSI are not quantifiable. One aspect which is extremely difficult to measure is the effect public service announcements (and other public outreach campaigns) have on the decision of potential migrants to cross the border, subjecting themselves to dangerous situations.


Historically, the border has always been a dangerous place. We believe, however, that the less enforcement control we have over a certain area, the more dangerous it is. This was evident in the high level of violence in the San Diego and El Paso Sectors, before we gained control there. Homicides were one of the leading causes of death among migrants before we initiated Operations "Hold the Line" and "Gatekeeper". Now that we have gained control in these areas, the violence has subsided and deaths have decreased.

As our enforcement efforts increase, and border control is obtained in a corridor, alien smugglers move their human cargo to corridors where we have not yet achieved control. This move causes an increased traffic volume in areas that have been historically unused by migrants and/or alien smugglers. As control is achieved in a corridor, the number of migrant deaths and rescues will decline.



The Los Angeles District of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Labor (DOL) have jointly established a working group, whose members include a number of state and local enforcement agencies, for the purpose of facilitating the free flow of information concerning worker exploitation cases.

The SCWETF meets quarterly with an Assistant U.S. Attorney to share information and discuss case developments. The group meetings provide a forum for the various regulatory agencies that oversee employer-related issues to share information concerning potential violators. Periodic training sessions aimed at educating the members of the group as to the enforcement capabilities and limitations of the member agencies are also conducted.

The focus of the group is the "bad actor" employer whose violations cut across multiple agency jurisdictions. Past experience suggests that because enforcement agencies work independently, the awareness of allegations or cases against exploitative employers tended to remain compartmentalized within a single agency. For example, a DOL case involving "wage and hour" or "cash pay" violations will also generally involve an employer who knowingly employs undocumented workers and who commits payroll withholding violations enforced by the State or the Internal Revenue Service. These violations, when viewed in their totality, paint a far more egregious picture than when viewed separately and also present a much more compelling picture to federal prosecutors than would a case that involves only minor, single agency violations.

Worker exploitation, for purposes of the working group, is defined as "Conditions involving any combination of criminal activity and substandard employment conditions such as wage and tax violations, worker’s compensation violations, environmental hazards, and criminal violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Two criminal exploitation cases have thus far been successfully prosecuted by the SCWETF.

The Fulmer Cattle Company
Van Essen Egg Ranch
The prosecution of the owner of the Fulmer Cattle Company brought to light the fact that over a hundred migrant workers had, over an extended period of time, been paid substandard cash wages while being housed in deplorable, unsanitary dwellings. The case against the owners of the Van Essen Egg Ranch was initiated following a fire which destroyed a dwelling inhabited by farm workers, and which killed one of the workers.

The need for inter-agency task forces to prosecute cases involving worker exploitation was identified in the Attorney General’s December 14, 1998 memorandum to U.S. Attorneys. This action was prompted by a number of prominent cases involving forced labor in agriculture and in the garment industry (sweatshops) which gained national attention and demonstrated the difficulties in prosecuting cases involving multiple agency jurisdictions.

The SCWETF is a fairly new initiative and is still being developed. We are thus far pleased with its success and plan to export the model to other jurisdictions within the Western Region in the near future.