While more than 112,000 people were prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry into the U.S. over the past year, just 11 employers faced criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers, according to an analysis of government data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
“The latest available data show that during the last 12 months (April 2018 to March 2019) only 11 individuals (and no companies) were prosecuted in just seven cases,” TRAC said in a statement releasing the findings. “Not only are few employers prosecuted, fewer who are convicted receive sentences that amount to more than token punishment.”
These results are based upon case-by-case data obtained from the Justice Department as a result of litigation brought by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act.
Additionally, of the 11 people convicted during the 12-month period, only three served prison time despite, as the New York Times reports, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s stated mission: “ICE’s worksite-enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.”
Given the millions of undocumented immigrants now working in this country, the TRAC statement continues, the odds of being criminally prosecuted for employing undocumented workers appears to be “exceedingly” remote.
“Indeed, since criminal penalties for employers were first enacted by Congress in 1986, few employers have ever been prosecuted under these provisions,” according to TRAC. “Prosecutions have rarely climbed above 15 annually, and have never exceeded 20 individuals a year, except during 2005 under President Bush and when they reached 25 in the first year of the Obama administration.”
The Times piece also notes that federal prosecutors are hard-pressed when it comes to filing charges against employers, quoting Tom Roach, an immigration lawyer in Pasco, Wash., whose clients include farmers who grow apples and other crops in the agriculture-rich area.
“It’s very hard for the government to prove what an employer knows in his head about his workers,” he said. “It’s a steep hill to climb.”