Migration News

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September 1997 Volume 4 Number 9

INS: Enforcement

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The INS budget for FY97 was $3.1 billion; in FY81, the INS budget was $372 million.

The INS reported that there were 475 million legal admissions in FY96, including 22 million nonimmigrants; many are foreign and US-citizen border commuters and other day visitors to and from Canada and Mexico.

Enforcement: Border. On August 27, 1997, Gustavo de la Vina, the architect of Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego, was named chief of the US Border Patrol. He will be stationed in Laguna Niguel, California rather than in Washington, DC.

On August 25, 1997, the INS launched Operation Rio Grande in Brownsville, Texas, aiming initially to stop illegal entries between the two bridges. About 75 percent of the illegal entries in the McAllen sector come through Brownsville. The McAllen border patrol sector has about 750 agents and is scheduled to have 1,360 agents by 1998. Mexico responded by adding 70 more staff to its consular offices in the region to protect the rights of Mexicans in the US.

This is the fourth intensive border control operation, following Hold the Line in El Paso, Gatekeeper in San Diego and Safeguard in Arizona. Since Gatekeeper began in October 1994, San Diego's share of border apprehensions dropped from 45 percent to 30 percent and the 14 westernmost miles of border are considered "secure;" there were 524,000 apprehensions in FY95, 483,000 in FY96, and a projected 300,000 in FY97.

Most of the San Diego sector's apprehensions are in the 52 miles of border further east and most aliens attempting to cross there use smugglers. The US Attorney in San Diego, who prosecuted 233 alien smugglers in FY96, up from 25 in FY94, said that Gatekeeper's "the measure of success" will be (1) "a decrease in the number of people attempting to cross in this portion of the border [and (2)] the extent to which smuggling operations are continuing to conduct their business in this sector."

The US in September 1997 had about 6,900 Border Patrol agents, up from 4,200 in 1994, 3,700 in 1990 and 2,100 in 1982.

In August, a Texas grand jury refused to bring criminal charges against the Marine corporal who on May 20, 1997 shot a teenager tending goats along the Texas-Mexico border. However, the civil rights division of the Justice Department launched an investigation to determine if there were any civil rights violations. As a result of the shooting, the Pentagon suspended anti-drug military operations along the border in July 1997.

A study by the University of Houston's Center for Immigration Research reported that between 1993 and 1996, 1,185 people, mostly young men in their 20s, died "silent deaths" due to drowning trying to enter the US illegally. There were 193 deaths in San Diego county during the four-year period and 844 deaths, 92 percent of them from drowning, in Texas.

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires INS to issue biometric border crossing cards by April 1998, and to replace the two to five million border crossing cards currently in use by October 1999. The new cards should make it more difficult for holders of border crossing cards to lend them to persons trying to illegally enter the US.

Agua Prieta, Sonora (population 100,000), across the border from Douglas, Arizona, is thriving as a result of shifting border-entry patterns, according to the Arizona Republic. Despite the presence of 250 Border Patrol agents, up from 35 in 1995, Mexicans do not seem to be deterred: the number of apprehensions was 134,000 in FY96 and is expected to be about 120,000 in FY97. Smugglers charge $500 to take illegal migrants to Phoenix. Agua Prieta has 32 maquiladoras, staffed in part by Mexicans who were unable to cross the border.

The Lapas No. 3 ship with 69 Chinese attempting to enter the US was located off the coast of Baja California on August 12, 1997. Officials believe that the passengers, who paid $30,000 to $40,000 each to be smuggled into the US, were to be ferried by small boat to a location near Ensenada and then taken to Mexicali, where there is a large Chinese-speaking population, and finally to enter the United States on foot. On August 26, 1997, it was announced that 65 of the Chinese would be returned to China and that four would be brought to San Diego to file asylum applications.

The last time the US Coast Guard intercepted a ship carrying Chinese nationals was in April 1995.

According to the INS, only 900,000 of the 2.8 million trucks that entered the US from Mexico were inspected by US authorities in 1996 and only five percent of the cars entering the US from Mexico were inspected.

Enforcement: Interior. The INS in August announced that apprehensions of illegal aliens in worksite enforcement raids are up 50 percent in FY97 compared with FY96, but fines levied against employers are down. During the first six months of FY1997, the INS apprehended 6,900 illegal aliens at job sites, up from the 4,300 during the same period last year. During the first six months of fiscal 1997, the INS levied $3.8 million in fines against employers, compared with $13.2 million in all of FY96.

On August 13, 1997, a 54-unit Texas-based restaurant chain, Pappas Partners, agreed to pay a record $1.75 million fine to the INS after a three-year investigation found that it had knowingly hired illegal aliens and on occasion hid them during raids by immigration agents. Six Pappas restaurants in the Dallas area admitted guilt on four felony counts of "shielding, concealing and harboring illegal aliens," and agreed to participate in the INS's EVP in which employers electronically verify the work eligibility of job-seekers.

The previous record fine collected was the $1 million paid by a New York janitorial firm in March 1996.

Some employers are getting unauthorized workers from private employment agencies. Near Cincinnati, Ohio, the INS on August 6, 1997 apprehended 117 illegal Mexican and Guatemalan workers, including a 12-year old girl and a 13-year old boy, sent to Chesapeake Display & Packaging Co. by AccuStaff Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida to provide packaging and assembly-line services. According to AccuStaff, the workers provided false documents to get hired for the $5 to $6.50 per hour jobs.

An INS official in the Cincinnati office said the INS is finding that, with increased enforcement at the border, Mexicans who used to work seasonally in agriculture are finding nonfarm jobs in cities and staying in the US longer.

Unauthorized workers have heretofore worked chiefly in the country and in cities, but more are now being found in the suburbs. The Brick Oven Pizzeria in the Baltimore suburb of Columbia was raided on July 31 and seven unauthorized workers were found in $7 per hour jobs making pizza dough. As in most of the INS inspections, the 80-restaurant chain cooperated fully with the INS and said that the workers had presented what appeared to be genuine work-authorization documents. In such cases, employers have the trouble of finding workers to replace those who were removed, but they are not fined for having hired unauthorized workers.

In July, the INS apprehended 72 Mexican and 33 Guatemalans at a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Ashland, Alabama. The Ashland police chief reportedly welcomed the raid, because the "town was becoming overrun with illegal aliens." He estimated that 500 of the 2,400 local residents were immigrants. Tyson, with 1,100 employees, is the second largest employer in Clay county, which has a population of 13,600.

Many employers complain that they are not documentation experts; since 1936, there have been 20 versions of the Social Security card issued. To get around document fraud, the INS launched the Employment Verification Pilot to enable employers to quickly check the legal status of newly-hired legal immigrants with A-numbers.

When the General Accounting Office examined the operation of the Employment Verification Pilot, it found that 80 percent of the 45,000 A-numbers submitted by employers between September 25, 1995 and January 10, 1997 were verified correctly. Of the 8,800 A-numbers that could not be verified electronically, 236, or three percent of the job applicants, contacted the INS, and 150 of them were considered to be authorized to work in the US.

Of the other 8,600 A-numbers, 72 percent were deemed to have counterfeit documents, 11 percent were in the US legally but not authorized to work (often tourists), four percent had expired documents and no information was found on 13 percent.

Once the INS notifies an employer that an employee has submitted false work authorization documents (usually in writing), most employers confront the employee and most employees quit. Employers must act quickly on the INS information, but not so quickly that they become subject to discrimination charges. If the employer acts too quickly and it turns out that the INS made an error in finding that an employee used false documents, the fired employee may sue the employer for discrimination and back wages.

In an agricultural case, a farmer was notified that some of his seasonal employees presented invalid Social Security numbers and he discharged them. The next season, they changed the names on the Social Security documents, but left the invalid Social Security numbers on their documents and were rehired. When the INS re-audited the employer, he was charged with a criminal violation for knowingly re-hiring illegal aliens. The farmer said he checked the names against the invalid list, but not the Social Security number.

In the Phoenix suburb Chandler, Arizona, 16 Latino residents sued the city's police for $35 million after a July 1997 joint five-day sweep with the INS to apprehend 432 unauthorized aliens; about 20 percent of Chandler's 165,000 residents are Latino. The Mexican consulate in Phoenix estimates that 375,000 Mexicans live in the Phoenix area, including 150,000 illegal residents; the INS estimated 110,000 illegal foreigners lived in Arizona in 1996.

This is the third joint INS-police sweep that has led to controversy: a September 1996 sweep in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a January 1997 sweep in Crescent City, Florida spawned protests and suits.

The Border Patrol office continues to close offices away from the border. Some of the agents displaced in Phoenix complained about the requirement that the INS obtain a search warrant to enter open fields to check farm workers. The "search warrant thing for open fields was the most terrible (handicap) of all. Those people just thumb their nose at us when we pass by now."

Julie Amparano, "Chandler sweep raises question of civil rights," Arizona Republic, August 27, 1997. William Branigin, "Texas Restaurant Chain to Pay Record $1.75 Million Fine for Harboring Illegal Aliens," Washington Post, August 14, 1997. Michael Graczyk, "Study: Illegal Border Crossings Grow Riskier," Sacramento Bee, August 12, 1997.

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