Tougher immigrant measures expected
By Antonio Olivo | Chicago Tribune reporter
July 9, 2008

Businesses that employ illegal immigrants can expect tougher enforcement through the end of 2008, Julie Myers, head of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said Tuesday.

In an interview with the Tribune editorial board that also covered the quality of federal detention sites and efforts to deport suspected gang members who are in the U.S. illegally, Myers said stepping up prosecutions of criminally negligent companies is a top priority before the next president takes office in January.

The agency has been criticized in recent months by Immigration rights advocates for treating employers too lightly while aggressively pursuing illegal immigrant workers during work site raids and other actions.

Business groups, meanwhile, have balked at state and local enforcement measures around the country that, among other things, would revoke the licenses of companies that employ illegal immigrants.

Since October, there have been about 4,100 arrests stemming from Immigration enforcement, with 900 of those apprehended charged criminally.

Of that number, 92 employers or managers have faced criminal charges, Myers said.

"It used to be only administrative charges were brought, and, often, the fine for hiring an illegal alien was lower than a traffic ticket, especially in the big cities," Myers said. She predicted fines against employers this year would surpass the $30 million in penalties assessed last year.

Aside from the criminal charges, which can take months to bring in often-complicated investigations, Myers said her agency has been working to persuade companies to "voluntarily comply." ... 7295.story