Worksite Immigration Enforcement is Minimal — CRS Study Confirms

By David North, November 26, 2012

If a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) implies that immigration law enforcement on the job site is minimal, you know it must be true.

CRS is the report-writing arm of the Library of Congress, and its many reports on immigration policy issues are deeply sympathetic to all immigration, all the time, so its document "Immigration-Related Worksite Enforcement: Performance Measures" is of special interest. It was published in May, but as these reports are nominally available only to Congress, it did not emerge until it was leaked earlier this month.

The report describes the various enforcement measures that the government has at its disposal and how they have been used in recent years. These include civil and criminal penalties for employers, raids on factories, arrests of illegal aliens ("unauthorized workers" is the CRS term), criminal indictments and convictions, fines, and forfeitures, all as the result of Department of Homeland Security actions and minimum wage enforcement efforts by the Department of Labor.

CRS has gathered numbers on each of these actions and shows how they have varied over recent years as the occasional factory-clearing raids of the Bush administration have given way to the gentler, employer-focused approaches of the Obama administration.

What is more important than the different law enforcement approaches of the two administrations is the minuscule effort of the government generally to address the problem, something that CRS touches on (carefully) in this report. For example, regarding the number of illegal alien workers apprehended it says (p. 8):

Viewed more broadly, ICE administrative and criminal arrests in worksite enforcement operations represent a very small percentage of the potential population of violators. For example, Table 3 shows a high of 5,184 administrative arrests in worksite operations in FY 2008, that year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, there were an estimated 8.3 million unauthorized aliens in the U.S. civilian workforce.

That small percentage, as CRS in this instance does not calculate for the reader, is a little over six one hundredths of 1 percent (.06 percent). And this was the highest number of such arrests in a year over a period of a dozen years.

Stated another way, for every 1,601 illegal aliens holding jobs, one was arrested on the job in 2008. And that was during the best year.

CRS does calculate the percentage in a similar statement about the number of companies that were fined for hiring illegals: (p. 5)

Despite the increases in recent years, however, the number of Final Orders for civil money penalties [i.e., fines] remains very low relative to the number of U.S. employers. Employers receiving Final Orders in any year shown in Table 2 represent less than .01 percent of U.S. employers.

That is one one-hundredth of 1 percent.

Proposed amnesty arrangements that are supposed to balance "more enforcement" in the labor market with amnesty for millions of illegals should be examined with strong suspicion, given the government's apparent continuing and bipartisan unwillingness to even enforce the laws currently on the books.