Immigration Enforcement at the Worksite: Making it Work
Although the United States’ employer sanctions laws target employers for investigation, inspect and prosecute employers, and penalize non-compliance, this policy brief finds that employers and unauthorized immigrants appear to have learned to exploit flaws in the system. The complexity of the I-9 process seems to invite document fraud and identity theft, as employers lack the specialized training to reliably screen job applicants.
Furthermore, since employer verification is voluntary, the vast majority of ineligible applicants go undetected. Even when non-compliant employers are targeted for enforcement, investigators lack tools to prove intentional non-compliance and many employers view the threat of actual punishment as an acceptable business expense.
As a response, the report proposes six types of reform that could strengthen the employer sanctions system: improvements to document security, document consolidation, mandatory use of employment databases, increased enforcement staffing, a revised penalty structure, and better worksite access for investigators. While these measures have the potential to strengthen the existing employer sanctions regime, their viability will likely depend on the success of technological responses to document fraud and on the successful implementation of a fast and reliable employer verification system. For these reasons, the report advances two additional fundamental reforms: the creation of a centralized screening system and of a job holder database.