By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Simple minds:Buzz must have read 20,000 words last week about controlling illegal immigration, and a common cry raised by many pundits was this: Prosecute employers for hiring illegal immigrants. Take away the jobs, and you take away the incentive for illegal immigration. It's simple: Better to drain the swamp than swat mosquitoes.
So we were surprised to read this in the Los Angeles Times: "Last year, 127 employers were convicted for hiring undocumented workers--a small fraction of the thousands of businesses thought to be using illegal labor."
How hard can it be to find businesses breaking immigration law? Why, in the region that includes North Texas and Oklahoma, no businesses were prosecuted last year. What are those Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents doing? Sleeping?
Not quite. Buzz chatted with Carl Rusnok, spokesman for the ICE central region. First off, he said, ICE needs probable cause to investigate a business or individual. Having an accent and carrying a hammer doesn't count. (Thank God, but you never know what a GOP Congress might do.)
The government must also show that a business that hired illegal workers did so knowingly, but "there are 29 acceptable documents that can be used to establish identity and employment eligibility," Rusnok told us. (Some can only be used by those under age 18.) Employers are not required to verify their authenticity, so coming up with fraudulent docs is not tough.
As Rusnok points out, it's not as though the more than 100 regional ICE agents are sitting on their hands. "They have extensive responsibilities ranging from financial investigations, to human smuggling, to child pornography, to marriage fraud, just to name a few," Rusnok wrote us.
"Unless ICE agents encounter some specific reason to question people on the street or in a place of business...the ICE Office of Investigations operates from the leads that are generated from many, many sources."
The agency's priority in workplace enforcement is in sensitive industries--ensuring that friends of Osama aren't working at the local nuke plant. It also focuses on catching and deporting immigrants who commit crimes.
Draining a swamp sounds pretty easy until you have to pick up a shovel. Maybe we need to hire some low-cost workers to help ICE out.