Companies should be charged for hiring illegal aliens
The Department of Homeland Security is bringing criminal charges against employers of illegal aliens.
WHILE Congress quarrels over immigration reform, the Bush administration is taking long-needed action against companies that exploit illegal immigrant laborers. Such punitive measures are necessary regardless of any legislation to cope with the country's 11 million illegal aliens.
Until recently the government would impose civil fines on employers with illegal aliens on their payroll. The employers considered it merely as one of the costs of doing business, and immigration authorities gave workplace raids low priority. Civil fine notices declined from 417 to three in 2003.
In April, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a new campaign to focus on bringing felony charges leading to large financial penalties and seizing of assets of companies hiring illegals. It began with the arrest of officials of Dutch-based IFCO Systems North America, a pallet supply company, and detaining of 1,187 immigrants at its plants in 26 states.
Three months later, Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made 445 criminal arrests of employers and rounded up 2,700 immigrant workers, most of whom were deported. Among the most recent officials arrested is Maximino Garcia, president of a company that supplied workers for other companies, serving as a buffer responsible for verifying workers' documents.
House Republicans have begun another round of nationwide hearings in support of their immigration bill, which provides border buildup and would turn illegal aliens into felons. The Senate has approved a bill providing for increased border enforcement and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens.
House Republicans claim the Senate bill would give amnesty to illegals, and Bush said in a speech in Florida yesterday, "Amnesty is not the right approach." However, he added, "What must work is a rational middle ground that says, you can pay a fine, you can learn English, you can prove you've been a lawful citizens, and then you can get in the citizenship line -- but at the back of the line, not the front of the line." That is essentially what the Senate bill would do.
The schism in Congress and the use of the issue in election campaigns make it unlikely that a compromise bill will emerge before the November elections. Congress might seriously take up the issue in a special session afterward, and a plan proposed this month by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Sen. Kay Hutchison, R-Texas, could provide the talking point.
The Pence-Hutchison proposal would create so-called "Ellis Island centers" in Mexico and Central America, where illegal aliens could match with employers and return to the U.S. legally. They could then renew visas every two years to a maximum of 12 years, then be given a five-year visa, after which they could apply for citizenship.