During the Obama administrations recent crackdown on the hiring of illegal immigrants, increasingly tough criminal charges have been pressed against employers who hire illegal immgrants while less emphasis has been placed on criminal arrests of the workers themselves reports The New York Times. The long-running investigations of employers have resulted in a combination of exponentially increased jail sentences and fines, convictions, and indictments. This comes after months of criticism from Republicans who perceive President Obama as having relaxed immigration enforcement in workplaces. In contrast to policies during the Bush-era, the newspaper reports that the number of criminal charges against unauthorized immigrant workers has dropped sharply over the last two years.
Two owners of Mexican restaurants in the Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler chain were among employers impacted by the tactics of Obama’s administration. Known for its laid-back mood, the chain was raided in 14 different locations in Arizona and California. Immigration agents detained kitchen workers and carried away boxes of payroll books and other pieces of evidence. According to The New York Times, the chain owners, Mark Evenson and his son, Christopher, and their accountant, were the only ones who showed up at the arraignment. If convicted on charges of tax fraud and harboring illegal workers, the father and son could face more than 80 years in jail. Of 42 illegal immigrants caught in the sweep, only one was charged with a crime and thirteen were process for immigration violations and detained or deported. The rest remained in this country to seek legal status or as witnesses.
Since President Obama announced that he would try to pass an immigration overhaul this year, his administration’s record on workplace enforcement has been fiercely debated. “We have steadily increased our efforts to investigate and prosecute employers who violate the law on a serious and grand scale,” said John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Administration officials added that the next step is to open a passage that would allow illegal immigrants in the country to work and live in the United States legally.
Republicans have a bone to pick, stating that the decline in arrests of unauthorized workers is an indication that the Obama administration is failing to remove those immigrants in the workforce at a time when Americans are struggling with the country’s high rates of unemployment.