A report on the lack of immigration enforcement in Oklahoma provided more evidence of that the "comprehensive enforcement strategy" used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a farce and designed to aid and abet illegal aliens in remaining in the U.S.
Only two Oklahoma businesses — an Oklahoma City Chinese restaurant and a Minco metal fabricator — have been cited or sanctioned by the federal immigration service since January 2005 on immigration law violations, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Clearly the Obama administration isn't taking immigration enforcement seriously,” said U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa. “Over the past seven years, ICE has only conducted a handful of worksite investigations and cited two businesses. That's a pretty clear indication they have no intention of enforcing the law or cracking down on illegal hiring.”
Since 2005, Oklahoma deportations skyrocketed by 324 percent and voluntary deportations jumped by 53 percent, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization that analyzes federal data.
Nationally, prosecutions of immigrants by the U.S. Justice Department from immigration service referrals have increased by 115 percent since 2006, with “re-entry of a deported alien” as the leading charge, according to the clearinghouse. Criminal immigration prosecutions hit an all-time high nationally in 2009.
Fines or referrals
Worksite enforcement of immigration laws is the responsibility of ICE, a division of the U.S. Homeland Security Department. The agency can assess fines on employers violating the law or make referrals to the justice department for criminal prosecution.
Nationally, 240 employers were fined by ICE last year after administrative audits, up from previous years.
The Tulsa World filed a Freedom of Information request May 13 with ICE asking for all Oklahoma employers and businesses cited or otherwise sanctioned by the agency in the past seven years on federal immigration law violations. The agency responded in a July 11 letter, listing only two business names and the dates and amounts of fines.
Oklahoma City attorney Doug Stump, vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, doubts the accuracy of the agency's FOIA response.
“I don't think that response is accurate because I've seen other activity,” Stump said. “If that number was true, it would be extraordinarily low.”
Since 2009, ICE has been ramping up its worksite enforcement on employers, shifting from the high-profile raids of businesses and roundup of immigrant workers for arrest.
“ICE's comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy reflects a renewed departmentwide focus targeting criminal aliens and employers who cultivate illegal workplaces by breaking the country's laws and knowingly hiring illegal workers,” stated ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok in an email.
“ICE's interior enforcement efforts often involve long and careful investigative work into allegations of crimes such as worker exploitation, visa and document fraud, or trafficking. ICE uses all available criminal and civil tools at its disposal, including civil fines and debarment to help deter employers who knowingly hire illegal labor.”
However, criminal prosecutions of employers have remained nearly nonexistent, with no known cases filed last year in the state against employers on hiring illegal immigrants. In the Northern District of Oklahoma, no such charges have been filed since 2009, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McLoughlin.
Court clerk officials in the U.S. Western and Eastern Districts could not recall any immigration-related cases filed against employers in the past year.
At least two cases have been prosecuted in the state since 2005 — a Sulphur saddle maker in the U.S. Eastern District for a 2006 raid and a heat and air director of operations in the U.S. Western District in a 2008 guilty plea.
One day last year at the A & J Fabricators in Minco, two immigration agents showed up and asked to look at an array of documents for its employees, said owner Anala Mitchell.
The Grady County metal fabricator has been operating for more than 30 years and hired people after getting background information including a federal I-9 form, which is used by employers to verify an applicant's identity and legal status.
“The agents were super nice, polite, very helpful, explained what we needed to do at each step and never treated me like I was doing something bad,” Mitchell said. “The fact I had all the documentation helped.”
After taking copies of employment records, agents came back a few weeks later showing that eight of the 20 employees did not have legal documents. She was told to fire them immediately.
“I had no choice and told them (workers) I was sorry to do this,” Mitchell said. “Some had been working here awhile. It's a small town, they are good guys and never caused any trouble.”
The immigrants were not arrested. Within a week, nearly all had gone to work for other companies in the same field.
“Some are still living here and working for other companies,” Mitchell said. “My question is, if these guys are not legal, where is all the tax money I've been paying on them going? Nobody at Social Security or anyone contacted me about the workers not having good numbers. The whole thing is kind of ridiculous.”
After some months of negotiation, the immigration service fined the business $1,672 on Jan. 3 for having clerical errors on some federal forms, such as putting information in the wrong column.
Mitchell now uses E-Verify, an Internet-based program comparing I-9 form information to databases kept by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.
Lin's Grand Buffet in Oklahoma City received its final order from the federal government in February 2010 with a fine of $3,696, records show. The Secretary of State lists Jennifer Lin as the incorporating officer of Oklahoma Enterprise. She could not be reached for comment.Ongoing audits
In the past six months, ICE has reportedly been stepping up worksite enforcement, but officials will not release the number of ongoing audits.
The National Federation of Independent Business notified its members in June that at least 1,000 businesses nationwide had received notices for a review. Last year, nearly 2,200 audits were performed nationally, according to ICE.
The audits check to make sure employers are only hiring people who are authorized to work in the U.S.
No arrests, no criminal prosecutions, no raids, only 240 employers fined nation-wide last year, but plenty of illegal aliens allowed to remain in the U.S. for the ongoing amnesty. Much like the vaunted Chipolte's audits. Fired, but allowed to remain in the U.S. And still no criminal prosecutions from ICE. So much for the "long, careful, criminal investigations.