Ask any immigration expert and they will tell you that jobs are the magnet that draws aliens to enter the United States illegally, or to overstay their nonimmigrant visas. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now working to turn that magnet off, as a major worksite enforcement action reveals.
According to ABC News, the agency is holding 160 workers detained at a trailer manufacturing company known as "Load Trail" in Sumner, Texas, during a raid on August 28, 2018. This was no small-scale operation, as the network reported:
The search involved multiple helicopters and more than 300 federal agents from New Orleans, Houston and San Antonio, according to Katrina Berger, Homeland Security's special-agent-in-charge [SAC] of investigations.
ABC News explained that the company came to the attention of ICE following a tip that Load Trail "may have knowingly hired illegal immigrants, including some who were allegedly using fraudulent identification documents."
This was not the first time that the company reportedly ran afoul of the employer sanctions provisions in section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Dallas-area ABC affiliate WFAA reported:
In 2014, Load Trail agreed to pay a $444,993 fine for "knowingly hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized workers," according to federal reports. The company employed 179 unauthorized workers at that time, the report said.
Most shocking was the cavalier manner in which the company allegedly hired those individuals. Specifically, the station quoted an unidentified "company insider", who stated:
I knew these were clearly illegals. This is not the way we are supposed to be hiring. ... They told me to keep doing my job — that if they were visited by ICE again, they would simply pay the fine and go on.
If true, this reflects not only a lack of concern on Load Trail's part about its own legal obligations, but also an almost unbelievable lack of regard for the welfare of its workforce, who are now facing removal proceedings and are in detention in Dallas and Oklahoma, according to ABC News.
It would also show a lack of regard for the company's own potential criminal liability. Under section 274A(f)(1) of the INA, "[a]ny person or entity which engages in a pattern or practice of violations of" the "knowing hire" provision in section 274A(a)(1)(A) of the INA or the "knowing continued employment" provision in section 274A(a)(2) of the INA faces up to six months' imprisonment, in addition to a $3,000 fine "for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom such a violation occurs." Berger indicated that criminal arrests could occur at the company as the investigation develops, according to WFAA.
The SAC made clear the reasons behind the employer sanctions laws:
Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses. ... In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere posed [sic] for exploiting their illegal workforce.
She also offered a warning to all employers who violate those laws: "You (companies) may have gotten away with it. ... But we're watching and we're coming."
The importance of such investigations cannot be understated. As Barbara Jordan, the civil rights icon and chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform told the House Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on International Law, Immigration and Refugees in September 1994:
Simply put, if we cannot demagnetize our economy for illegal aliens who come here to seek jobs, we cannot control illegal immigration. If we cannot control illegal immigration, we cannot sustain our national interest in legal immigration. Those who come here illegally, and those who hire them, will destroy the credibility of our immigration policies and their implementation. In the course of that, I fear, they will destroy our commitment to immigration itself.
ICE finally appears to have learned that lesson.