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January 2019, Volume 25, Number 1

DHS: Shutdown, Wall

Congress failed to appropriate $5 billion for a wall on the Mexico-US border in FY19 funding bills. In retaliation, President Trump allowed nine of the 15 federal agencies to close on December 22, 2018 for several weeks. The House approved $5.7 billion for the wall, but the Senate did not.

Trump says that Mexico will pay for the border wall with savings and revenue generated from the newly signed US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement. Trump said he may invoke national security to build the wall without Congressional appropriations.

A third of the 2,000-mile Mexico-US border has fences and walls to deter the entry of unauthorized people and vehicles. Some $1.7 billion was allocated for physical barriers on the Mexico-US border in FY17 and FY18. Less than 10 percent was spent by the end of 2018, but most of the appropriated funds have been designated for particular projects.

Ex-DHS Secretary John Kelly said that instead of a concrete wall on the Mexico US border, "we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people."

Border. Some 396,600 foreigners were apprehended just inside US borders in FY18, up from 304,000 in FY17. These apprehensions included 107,200 parents with children under 18 and 50,000 unaccompanied minors. Apprehenions in the first months of FY19 averaged 50,000 a month, suggesting an annual total of 500,000 or more.

President Trump sent 15,000 troops to the border in November 2018 to bolster the Border Patrol.

The Trump administration prosecutes adults who enter the US illegally, and has said that asylum will not be granted because of domestic or gang violence at home. Asylum applicants will have to pass a tougher credible fear test to stay in the US, ending the practice of allowing almost all asylum seekers into the US to wait several years until their cases are heard by immigration judges.

Interior. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforces immigration laws inside the US, and ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) enforces laws against hiring unauthorized workers. HSI launched over 6,800 work-site investigations and began almost 6,000 I-9 audits in FY18, up from fewer than 1,700 and 1,400 in FY17.

Unauthorized workers continue to buy false documents to present to employers. Reporters visiting Los Angeles' MacArthur Park in December 2018 reported that the cost of a Social Security card and an immigrant visa or green card was $100 to $200, about the same price as when the counterfeit documents industry began after the enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which imposed federal sanctions on employers who knowingly hired unauthorized workers.

HSI finds it hard to detect and arrest document vendors, some of whom operate online from abroad. Federal contractors must use E-Verify, the internet-based system that can detect counterfeit documents, and 22 states require some or all public and private employers to check new hires via E-Verify. HSI won 710 convictions related to false documents in FY18. An increasing number of false documents use Puerto Rican credentials that belong to others; Puerto Ricans are US citizens.

Four workers in December 2018 admitted that they presented false documents when they were hired as housekeepers at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The eight million unauthorized US workers were five percent of US workers in 2017. States with the highest shares of unauthorized workers include Nevada with almost 11 percent, California with almost nine percent, and Texas with eight percent.

A third of unauthorized workers are in service occupations. The highest shares of unauthorized workers were in farming, 24 percent, and construction, 15 percent.

A rising number of workers are brought into workplaces by contractors, temp agencies, and staffing firms, up to 15 million. The supervisors and crew bosses in these firms often advise unauthorized workers where and how to get false Social Security cards and immigrant visas. New workers are often referred to jobs by friends or solicited via What's App.

Motel 6 employees in Arizona gave information on suspected unauthorized guests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents without a warrant. In November 2018. Motel 6 paid $9 million to settle a suit alleging that cooperating with ICE led to the arrest and deportation of guests. A Washington suit against Motel 6 for similar practices is pending.

7-Eleven. ICE agents are inspecting more 7-Eleven stores, which are often operated by immigrant franchisees, staffed by immigrant workers, and a haven for day laborers. There are over 9,000 7-Eleven stores in the US, and ICE has been auditing the I-9 forms of many stores.

There are tensions between 7-Eleven management and franchisees, including allegations that 7-Eleven management may have given ICE informaton on which franchisees may be violating immigration laws. Corporate 7-Eleven can take over stores whose franchisees violate US laws.

Japanese billionaire Masatoshi Ito bought 7-Eleven in 2005 and expanded it to over 67,000 stores worldwide. New management also pressed US stores to carry more items and pay more fees for corporate services, triggering backlashes from South Asian franchisees, some of whom speculate that immigrant franchisees who protest 7-Eleven management are targeted by ICE.

Pakistani immigrant Farrukh Baig arrived in the US in the 1980s and owned 14 7-Eleven stores by June 17, 2013, when rumors of Baig hiring unauthorized workers prompted an ICE raid. Dallas-based 7-Eleven management had been warned that Baig hired unauthorized workers and investigaged, but found no problems. Baig was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison, but 7-Eleven was not charged.

Some immigrant 7-Eleven franchisees believe that 7-Eleven management is using ICE to extract more money from them. Suits between franchisees and management confirm that management hired ex-police officiers to investigate particular franchisees and stores.

SSA. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will resume sending no-match letters in 2019, informing employers when the information on employee tax forms (W-4) does not match SSA records. Employers are expected to take corrective action or risk IRS penalties.