U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is prepared to criminally prosecute illegal immigrants in the workplace, as well as those employers who hire them.
"While we focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, under the current administration's enforcement priorities, workers encountered during these investigations who are unauthorized to remain in the United States are also subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country," ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said in an email to the Washington Examiner.
This week, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said his agency will increase workplace immigration enforcement effort four to five times the level current.
According to Bennett, that includes pursing more investigations and "conducting more I-9 audits."
An I-9 form is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization for someone to be hired to work in the U.S.
Data provided to the Washington Examiner shows that from Oct. 1, 2016, to June 24, 2017, ICE arrested 42 people in management and 55 people in non-management for criminal immigration violations, and all but 15 were indicted and convicted. That's a significant drop from several prior years — the highest amount in the past few years was in fiscal 2011 under former President Barack Obama, when ICE arrested 221 people in management and 492 in non-management, for a total of 713.
President Obama oversaw the federal government for the three and a half months of the fiscal year, which could explain some of the reduced enforcement. However, the Trump administration was in charge for most of that year, and also oversaw that reduced enforcement, although ICE's comment indicates that they are now ready to boost enforcement again.
On ICE's website, it still has policy posted from 2013, which was revised and instituted in 2009 under Obama. That policy aims to target employers that use illegal immigrants as a business model, mistreat their workers, engaged in human smuggling or trafficking, commit identity and benefit fraud, launder money or engage in other criminal activity.
ICE officials were not able to describe what industries commit the most violations or what states have more violations than others.
"All businesses, regardless of size, industry or geographic location, are expected to comply with the law," Bennett said.