Factbox: U.S. steps up foreign worker scrutiny

DALLAS (Reuters) - Over a million foreign-born workers who have come to America since 2008 have found work, according to findings of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data.

This trend comes against the backdrop of stepped-up workplace enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants and the rapid expansion of the online E-verify system by employers to determine if first-time hires are authorized to work in the United States.

Following are some facts and figures about enforcement against companies as well as the growing use of the electronic verification system. The latter, while a requirement for federal contractors, has also been mandated by some states.


- According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the number of companies being fined for employing illegal workers has dramatically increased over several years.

This is in part due to a shift in its enforcement strategy since April of 2009 under President Barack Obama’s administration. This reduced the need for large-scale immigration enforcement actions where employees were arrested and instead focused on finding evidence to criminally charge employers and to increase the use of tools like audits of I-9 forms (documentation of workers that are required of employers), fines and debarment.

In the fiscal year 2010, which ended last Sept 30, ICE fined 198 employers nationwide for such violations compared to just 42 in the previous fiscal year. From 2003 through to the end of the 2008 fiscal year only 95 such fines were levied by ICE.

Construction companies and restaurants figure prominently on the list that ICE compiled for Reuters.


E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

The system is used to verify the legal work status in America of first-time hires. Employers have also been using it to check on native-born American citizens (to verify for example that they are not illegal migrants).

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, during fiscal year 2010, 226,754 employers ran 16,458,447 queries on the system. This compared to 157,235 employers running 8,563,819 queries in the prior fiscal year. In fiscal 2007, 24,480 employers ran 3,271,817 queries on the system.

Participation is voluntary for most businesses but in some cases state or federal law require it -- such as in Arizona and Mississippi, where most employers use it. E-Verify is also mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause.

Several other states such as Texas also have E-verify legislation in the works.

Sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Reuters