April 14, 2000

Imigration Notes:

INS: Sanctions, Border

Congress and think tanks have been debating what to do about continued illegal immigration- there are an estimated six million unauthorized foreigners in the US, and their number is increasing by 300,000 a year. The INS wants to keep on improving border controls by adding agents, fences and lights to deter unauthorized entrants. The INS hired 369 Border Patrol agents in FY99, short of the 1,000 agents mandated by Congress.

Many migrant advocates, and now the AFL-CIO, urge another amnesty for unauthorized aliens. The 1987-88 legalization programs granted immigrant status to 2.7 million foreigners. Many migrant advocates endorsed the AFL-CIO's call for another amnesty and an end to punishing of employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants. They point out that under Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, employer sanctions were never effectively enforced. The AFL-CIO called for resources now used to enforce sanctions to be shifted to labor law enforcement that targets exploitative employers.

The INS continues to try out various interior enforcement strategies. Some districts rely on the "Do-not-hire" approach, subpoenaing I-9 forms from employers and checking worker-supplied information against Social Security and INS databases, and then determining which workers appear to be unauthorized before conducting workplace raids. For example, under Operation Vanguard, the INS subpoenaed records from meatpacking employers in Nebraska, compared employee information on I-9 forms against Social Security Administration and INS records, and then told employers to ask employees who appeared to be unauthorized to clear up discrepancies in their records or face INS interviews. The INS then visited meatpacking plants and interviewed only workers already identified as possibly unauthorized.

The INS in early 1999 checked on the status of 24,148 meatpacking employees and found 4,495 with questionable documents; they were asked to appear before the INS when it visited the plant. Most of those to be questioned disappeared before the INS arrived; the INS interviewed 1,042 workers and arrested 34.

Other INS districts continue to use workplace raids, including one in February 2000 in Memphis— 100 INS agents surrounded the new FedEx world headquarters which is under construction, apprehending 125 unauthorized workers. An unauthorized worker who was not apprehended said he earned $13 an hour hanging drywall at the site.

Extracted from MIGRATION NEWS Vol. 7, No. 4, April, 2000.

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