The Houston Chronicle says the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency often turns a blind eye when it identifies suspected illegal immigrants working at businesses. It said ICE inspectors found that a California company had 262 employees – 93 percent of the workforce – with “suspect” documents on file. At an Illinois service company, auditors found dubious documents for nearly 8 in 10 of its 200-plus employees. Inspectors examining records at a Texas firm found suspicious paperwork for half of the 107 employees on the payroll. But the companies didn't pay a penny in fines. None of the employers was led away in handcuffs. ICE didn't even issue them a formal warning.
Instead, they were instructed to purge their payrolls of illegal immigrants. Armed with assurances that the employees with suspect documents were fired – or, in the Texas case, “self-terminated” – the ICE auditors closed the cases. The cases are just a few examples included in ICE's internal records on its audit initiative, an enforcement program launched last July. In the past, ICE had faced criticism for raiding job sites and rounding up illegal immigrants for deportation, but not necessarily building cases against employers. With the audit initiative, ICE aims to scrutinize the hiring records of more businesses and impose “tough” and “smart” employer sanctions. But ICE audit records show the agency has, in many instances, failed to punish companies found to have workers with questionable documents.