ICE Begins to Gin Up Worksite Enforcement Operations

By Dan Cadman on January 16, 2018

Toward the end of December, I blogged about the near-complete lack of any commitment by the nation's federal immigration agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to conducting operations to protect American workers from abuse by unscrupulous employers who hire illegal aliens. I suggested that data mining of already existing information contained within ICE and Department of Homeland Security databases could help jump-start this moribund program.

Last week, the Washington Post along with a number of other media outlets, published a story about a recent workplace enforcement operation mounted by ICE agents at several 7-Eleven stores nationwide.

I don't suggest that my blogs had anything to do with inspiring these worksite operations; that's highly unlikely. ICE's Acting Director, Tom Homan, has made public pledges that his organization will substantially increase the pace of its enforcement against employers who hire unlawful workers and it's about time — in fact long overdue.

In truth, it probably didn't take either much time or planning to mount this operation: Unlawful workers are probably as ubiquitous as Big Gulps at 7-Eleven stores. Speaking as a former insider, one wonders whether they weren't staged under pressure, and at the last moment after a lot of foot-dragging by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, which is notoriously picky-choosey about what kinds of Title 8 (immigration) enforcement it wants to engage in, preferring in the main to think that such work is beneath its agents, and better left to the Removal Operations Division on the other side of ICE's "great divide".

Be that as it may, these operations are a good start; a down payment as it were, on Homan's promises. What we also need to ask, though, is whether there will be any follow-through beyond just snatching a few illegal alien workers. For instance, will higher ups in this franchise-based company ultimately be charged with civil or criminal pattern-and-practice violations of law? (See 8 U.S.C. 1324a Sections (e)(4) and (f)(1).)

Making such a case will take longer given the franchise nature of 7-Elevens, and would require a sustained time and effort commitment on the part of HSI agents to show that they established policies that encouraged or tolerated, or deliberately turned a blind eye toward the hiring of unlawful workers by franchisees with a wink-and-a-nod.

Yet it is that kind of commitment that will be needed in the long run in order for the agency to catch the attention of employers nationwide and make them know as a certainty that there is professional, fiscal, and personal risk that attaches to ignoring the laws governing the vetting and hiring of only lawful workers.

That sustained commitment, in turn, will help foster the president's "Hire American" agenda in ways that mere words and executive orders cannot.