DHS to focus on employers in new immigration emphasis

Published 31 March 2009

The new policy will aim enforcement efforts at those who hire illegal workers; DHS says immigration raids will continue

Stepping into the political minefield of immigration reform, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano will soon direct federal agents to focus more on arresting and prosecuting American employers than the illegal laborers who sneak into the country to work for them, department officials said Monday. Los Angeles Times’s Josh Meyer and Anna Gorman write that the shift in emphasis will be outlined in revamped field guidelines issued to agents of DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as early as this week, several officials familiar with the change said. The policy is in line with comments that President Obama made during last year’s campaign, when he said enforcement efforts had failed because they focused on illegal immigrants rather than on the companies that hired them.

There is a supply side and a demand side,” one Homeland Security official said. “Like other law enforcement philosophies, there is a belief that by focusing more on the demand side, you cut off the supply.”

Another department official said the changes were the result of a broad review of all immigration and border security programs and policies that Napolitano began in her first days in office. “She is focused on using our limited resources to the greatest effect, targeting criminal aliens and employers that flout our laws and deliberately cultivate an illegal workforce,” the official said.

DHS officials emphasized that the department would not stop conducting sweeps of businesses while more structural changes to U.S. immigration law and policy were being contemplated.

Agents, however, will be held to a higher standard of probable cause for conducting raids, the officials said, out of concern that at least one recent raid in Washington state and another planned sweep in Chicago were based on speculative information that illegal workers were employed.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the coming policy changes.