LOS ANGELES – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officers and special agents arrested 212 individuals for violating federal immigration laws and served 122 notices of inspection (NOIs) to businesses in the Los Angeles area of responsibility (AOR) during a five-day targeted operation that ended Thursday. Eighty-eight percent of those arrested were convicted criminals.
During the operation, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested 212 individuals for violating U.S. immigration laws. Of those arrested, 195 were either convicted criminals, had been issued a final order of removal and failed to depart the United States, or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally. More than 55 percent had prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges, and assault, or had past convictions for significant or multiple misdemeanors.
These arrests were driven by leads developed by the local field office in conjunction with the Pacific Enforcement Response Center (PERC). ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, ICE no longer exempts classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.
Some of the individuals arrested during this operation will face federal criminal prosecutions for illegal entry and illegal re-entry after deportation. The arrestees who are not being federally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
Also as part of this operation, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) served 122 notices of inspection to a variety of businesses in the Los Angeles area. A notice of inspection alerts business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law. If the businesses are found to not be in compliance with the law, they will face civil fines and potential criminal prosecution. Any potential criminal charges or other penalties will be coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice. Similar notices of inspection were served several weeks ago to 77 businesses in northern California.
Under federal law, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals they hire, and to document that information using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. A notice of inspection alerts business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law. Employers are required to produce their company’s I-9s within three business days, after which ICE will conduct an inspection for compliance. If employers are not in compliance with the law, an I-9 inspection of their business will likely result in civil fines and could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution, if they are knowingly violating the law.
In FY17, ICE conducted 1,360 I-9 audits and made 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests. Businesses were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeiture, fines and restitution and $7.8 million in civil fines, including one company whose financial penalties represented the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.
HSI uses a three-prong approach to conduct worksite enforcement: compliance through I-9 inspections and civil fines; enforcement through the criminal arrest of employers and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and outreach through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.
By volunteering to participate in the IMAGE program, companies can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. As part of IMAGE, ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. Businesses can request more information about participating here.
Despite state laws like AB450 that intend to interfere with federal immigration enforcement authorities, ICE expects employers and state officials to comply with federal law. Federal law established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of all individuals they hire. ICE is the federal agency responsible for enforcing these laws, which were set up to protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, and to eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce. ICE’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor, and other illegal practices.