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Memorandum Audit Report
Report No. 95-25
Office of the Inspector General
|MEMORANDUM FOR||DORIS MEISSNER
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE
|FROM:||MICHAEL R. BROMWICH
|SUBJECT:||MEMORANDUM AUDIT REPORT 95-25, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Operation Jobs Pilot Program in Texas|
This memorandum presents the final report prepared by the Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, on the Operation Jobs pilot program, a job referral program that is an extension of the Employer Sanctions Program within the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This report was discussed with your staff. They concurred with its contents and findings, and have implemented corrective action to address our recommendations. Therefore, the report is closed and no response from you is necessary.
The objectives of our audit were to determine: (1) whether the Operation Jobs Program works, (2) its benefits, and (3) if the program works, are improvements needed and should it be expanded beyond the INS Central Region.
SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
The audit was performed in accordance with generally accepted Government Auditing Standards. Our audit scope generally covered Fiscal Year 1994. We reviewed operational procedures utilized by INS; interviewed 30 employers who had been inspected by INS for compliance with the Employer Sanctions Program; and interviewed selected state, county, and volunteer assistance agency personnel who provided job applicants to the inspected employers.
In this report, we present background data on the structure of employer sanctions in the Dallas District to describe the environment in which the Operation Jobs Program operates. We did not audit the Employer Sanctions Program per se, and therefore do not have any findings or recommendations regarding that program.
Operation Jobs is currently a pilot program and was first tested in the Dallas District. The intent of the program is to: (1) create a deterrent to illegal immigration by displacing unauthorized workers and illegal aliens with authorized workers, some of whom may be difficult-to-employ Americans; and (2) lessen the burden on the employer resulting from the immediate termination of unauthorized workers. On October 18, 1994, the INS Central Region Director expanded the program regionally to cover 18 states. As explained below, Operation Jobs is a part of the Employer Sanctions Program.
The Employer Sanctions Program was established pursuant to the Immigration Reform Act of 1986, Public Law 99-603. The Immigration Reform Act created prohibitions against knowingly employing aliens who are not authorized to work in the United States. It also established employment verification requirements and provided for enhanced enforcement measures. Specifically, Section 101 was designed to reduce the unlawful employment of unauthorized aliens. Furthermore, Section 274A established the enforcement mechanism by: (1) making it unlawful to knowingly hire, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens; (2) requiring those who hire, recruit, or refer people for employment to verify both the identity and employment eligibility of the hired individuals; and (3) making it unlawful to knowingly continue the employment of unauthorized aliens hired after November 6, 1986. This section of the law also makes the hiring of unauthorized workers a civil and, in some cases, a criminal violation.
To comply with the law, all individuals hired after November 6, 1986, must present to employers specific documentation that establishes their identity and employment eligibility. Employers are required to examine such documentation and certify, to the best of their knowledge, that the documents reasonably appear on the face to be genuine, that the documents relate to the employee being hired, and that the persons are eligible to work. As evidence that an employer examined the identity and employment eligibility documentation, the employee and the employer are required to complete Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).
To comply with the enforcement requirements of the Immigration Reform Act, INS established Employer Sanctions Units in INS District Offices, within its Investigations Division. The Sanctions Units, through follow-up with investigative leads, investigative research, and random selections from a national data base of employers, identify employers for an investigative inspection or a compliance inspection.
If selected for a compliance inspection, an employer is notified of a pending visit (sent a Notice of Inspection) and is asked to provide all Forms I-9, along with payroll roster information, to INS for review. At the Sanctions Unit, the data on all employees' Forms I-9 are cross-checked with A-numbers (an INS assigned number) contained in the INS Central Index System (the alien data base). Also, some selected Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are verified with the Social Security Administration. Invalid A-numbers or SSNs, indicating the possibility of fraudulent identity documents, along with the associated employee names, are reported back to the employer via a letter (Notice of Unauthorized Employees). If an employer calls with questions, a Sanctions Unit investigator informs the employer that it is illegal to knowingly continue the employment of the unauthorized worker(s). The employer is then required to terminate the unauthorized worker(s) immediately, or be subjected to a substantial fine (between $250 and $10,000 per alien) for knowingly continuing to employ the unauthorized worker(s).
Because compliance inspections identified unauthorized workers who deceived employers with fraudulent documents, investigators from the Dallas District Office of Investigations recognized that jobs were created at the time employers removed unauthorized workers from their payrolls. As job opportunities were created, the Dallas Office realized that some of the more disadvantaged Americans and authorized aliens could obtain those jobs. As a result, Operation Jobs became a pilot program in 1992 to refer job vacancies to state, county, and volunteer assistance agencies. The program also became a vehicle to work with employers to lessen the burden when the employment of large numbers of unauthorized workers had to be terminated.
Historically, compliance inspections of employers have had only a limited effect on the illegal alien population in the United States due to the prevalence of fraudulent documents, especially "green cards," and the limited resources dedicated to enforcement. According to INS, employers are continuously hampered by undocumented workers' widespread use of fraudulent documents. Investigators from the Dallas District Office -Sanctions Unit informed us that in Dallas, for about $150, an illegal alien can obtain a complete set of fraudulent documents -- such as a driver's license, social security card, credit card, and immigration papers -- in about 4 hours.
Investigators from the Dallas District Office told us that about 99 percent of illegal aliens with whom they have contact possess fraudulent documents. The ready availability and low cost of fraudulent documents, job opportunities that pay between $5 and $10 per hour, and the enormous difficulty of controlling the nation's borders together encourage unauthorized workers totry to circumvent our nation's immigration laws and to obtain employment in the United States.
By design, Operation Jobs fosters cooperation with, and education of, employers. However, there is currently no empirical data on the program to determine if it works. We were unable to determine how many U.S. citizens and authorized aliens had been employed through Operation Jobs. As a result, INS intends to perform a study later in 1995. There are some improvements, however, that needed to be made to the program, and those steps have been taken.
Does the Program Work
We believe that the concept of Operation Jobs is viable, but quantitative and qualitative data is lacking at this point. Statistical data on job referrals and placements was not developed formally by either INS; by any of the participating state, county, or volunteer agencies interviewed; or by any of the employers interviewed. However, the Dallas District Office Sanctions Unit estimates that more than 1,300 illegal aliens have been removed from their jobs due to Employer Sanction investigations since the inception of Operation Jobs.
One reason that statistical data was not available on illegal alien removals and job placements was the limited resources dedicated to the Employer Sanctions function. The Dallas District Office Sanctions Unit has the responsibility for 123 counties. This area consists of the State of Oklahoma and Northern Texas, including the Dallas and Fort Worth metropolitan area. The Texas Employment Commission estimates that there are over 84,000 employers in the Dallas and Fort Worth area alone. However, in the Dallas District Office of Investigations, the Employer Sanctions Unit consists of eight Special Agents and a supervisor. Another reason was that the removal of identified illegal aliens was generally limited by a single INS bus with 50 seats leaving the Dallas area each day for a round trip to the Mexican border. With nine staff, following up with employers and the assistance agencies to capture statistical data on the numbers of authorized workers referred and placed in jobs after a compliance inspection was a very low priority.
Yet another reason for the lack of data was the cost in resources for obtaining accurate placement data. To obtain accurate data on the program's effectiveness, someone would have to track vacancies created through the INS inspections and raids, as well as track applicant interviews, placements, lengths of stay on the job, and the reasons for termination for workers ofemployers participating in Operation Jobs. Undoubtedly, employers and the assistance agencies, as well as INS, would find this requirement burdensome and costly. Alternatively, INS intends to perform a study using follow-up compliance inspections on previously inspected employers to determine if there has been a reduction in illegal aliens previously identified.
Although data was not available to show that the program works, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may have other benefits. For example, during 1994 and 1995, the Operation Jobs Program was mentioned in several positive newspaper articles and received endorsements about the concept of the program's design. Because of the Operation Jobs Program, the Dallas District Office of Investigations, Employer Sanctions Unit, was awarded Vice President Gore's "Hammer Award" for reinventing government. Further, the employers interviewed during our audit also endorsed the new working relationship image created by INS due to Operation Jobs; hence, the majority of employers have agreed to cooperate with INS in the removal of illegal aliens.
We were told by the Dallas District Office Sanctions Unit that they have tried to understand the needs of the employers in the area. With the initial design and later changes to the Operation Jobs Program, they have attempted to change the image of INS. We witnessed several compliance inspections in which INS was educating employers on the requirements of the Immigration Reform Act. During a typical compliance inspection, investigators would: provide copies of the Employers' Handbook; help reduce the employers' apprehensions by describing the compliance inspection process; discuss in detail the employers' rights in the process; answer questions about the discrimination provisions in the law; provide detailed instructions on the completion of the Forms I-9; advise on specific areas to watch for when reviewing applicant documents; highlight key dates to be aware of, such as expirations of work permits; and discuss the details of the Operation Jobs Program and its linkages with st ate, county, and volunteer assistance agencies.
To date, the Operation Jobs Program has added only minimal cost to INS. No extra resources have been required. As the Employer Sanctions Unit carries out its regular tasks and compliance inspections, operating the program merely requires the completion of a job vacancy sheet when illegal aliens are terminated, and transmission of a facsimile to the cooperating assistance agencies. Additionally, some public relations effort is spent by INS to establish working relationships and encourage participation in the program, but most of that effort usually takes place during the compliance inspection with the employer.
How the Program Works
Operation Jobs fosters a concept of cooperation with employers in the removal of unauthorized workers. Because the Immigration Reform Act does not provide employers any leeway as to when to terminate known illegal aliens, Sanctions Unit Investigators, under the Operations Jobs Program, have tested three different methods of working with employers to terminate, arrest, and return illegal aliens to their country of origin.
The first method, used during 1994, was to send a letter notifying employers of all unauthorized workers on the payroll. The employers were expected to terminate the illegal workers immediately, no matter the consequence to the business. This method proved a major hardship on the employer when a large percentage of the work force was identified and terminated, effectively on the spot. Another disadvantage was that INS did not know when or if the terminations occurred; therefore, many of the illegal aliens could not always be arrested and removed when terminated.
The second method, tested in early 1995, involved working with each agreeable employer to develop a plan to remove the unauthorized workers a few at a time. INS reported to the employer, all of the illegal aliens' names and the employer chose the order in which aliens were to be terminated. This systematic removal was conducted over an agreed-upon period, possibly up to
6 weeks, depending upon the number of unauthorized workers and the percentage of the work force. The benefits of this concept included the removal of illegal aliens from the work site, improved working relationships with employers, and significantly reduced staff resources when compared to a raid which could involve 20 to 40 investigators. However, this method did not result in large numbers of arrests and removals.
The latest method of notifying employers, started in May 1995, is a combination of the first and second methods. INS now controls the list of names and chooses each group of names to systematically release to each employer for termination. When the names are released, INS investigators are present to arrest the illegal aliens. This method tends to maximize arrests, removals, and seizures of fraudulent documents, but it does not catch all unauthorized workers, especially those assigned to later work shifts.
Operation Jobs also links the inspected employers with participating state, county, and volunteer assistance agencies capable of supplying qualified workers. During 1994, when an employer was notified by INS of unauthorized workers on their payroll, lists of potential job vacancies were faxed or mailed byINS to the selected agencies assisting unemployed workers. The participating agencies included the Dallas and Tarrant County welfare agencies, the Texas Employment Commission (including both job seekers and unemployed workers), the Salvation Army, the West Dallas Job Connection Coalition, the Refugee Services of North Texas, the International Rescue Committee, and the Dallas Police Department (for referral of inner city youth). This linkage can benefit both the employer who needs authorized replacement workers and legitimate job seekers, many of whom are subsidized by the taxpayers.
The Operation Jobs Program may also assist volunteer agencies to achieve their goals by reducing unemployment; lessening the dependency on welfare; and providing job opportunities to delinquent inner city youth, refugees, welfare recipients, and other unemployed persons.
Needed Improvements - Letters to Employers
Our audit included interviews with 30 employers in Northern Texas, of which about half were in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. When the employers received letters from INS (Notification of Unauthorized Employees), which listed the names and A-numbers of the unauthorized workers, the INS correspondence was too confusing and did not provide complete instructions for the termination of the affected illegal workers. In fact, the standard letter did not state that the illegal workers were to be terminated or suggest that INS would assist with the removal of the illegal aliens. As a result, the Dallas District Office Sanctions Unit received numerous phone calls from employers asking for instructions, guidance on termination, and the specifics of the employers' rights according to the Immigration Reform Act.
These telephone calls could have been significantly reduced and the majority of employers' questions answered beforehand had INS correspondence provided the basic information. Furthermore, at the critical time of instant job vacancies, the employers had no readily available information providing contact representatives' names or phone numbers of the participating agencies, who could assist them with providing replacement workers. Had that information been available at the time the unauthorized workers were terminated, it is possible that some employers would have called one of those assistance agencies for replacement workers.
Needed Improvements - Referral of Job Vacancies
During our field work, we also conducted interviews with the Dallas and Tarrant County welfare agencies, the Texas Office ofImmigration and Refugees, and the International Rescue Committee. All agencies interviewed were generally pleased with the goals and the objectives of the Operation Jobs Program. However, the interviews also indicated that those agencies had not consistently received lists of job vacancies from the Dallas District Office Sanctions Unit throughout the last 2 years.
For example, the Tarrant County Welfare Office did not receive a single job referral from INS in Fiscal Year 1994.
In our interviews with the welfare offices, we determined that those agencies used extremely slow internal procedures for referring participants to open job vacancies. For example, when the Dallas County Welfare Office received job vacancy lists from INS, the program administrator would survey the lists, try to match the recipient's skills with the job vacancy requirements, then mail the applicable employer information to an individual recipient(s). Several weeks later, a welfare recipient may have shown up at an employer's office to apply for a vacancy that usually had been filled already. According to the program administrator, his mail budget was quickly depleted. With no mail funds or other staff resources, he stopped referring welfare recipients to the open job vacancies. Another constraint was a lack of staff to process the job vacancy referral information when it arrived from INS.
The Tarrant County Welfare Office procedures were similar. They also tried to match recipient skills with the vacancy announcements sent by INS. The referral process for some recipients took up to 30 days to get participants to the employers' work sites. However, the staff did spend some time with local employers trying to develop rapport and working relations. To control welfare costs, the project coordinator would also personally follow up with both employers and the referred recipients to determine if an applicant was placed in a job.
Without consistent job referrals from INS to the state, county, and volunteer assistance agencies, one of the goals of the Operation Jobs Program -- to assist with identifying potential jobs for difficult to hire Americans and authorized aliens -- is significantly compromised. Additionally, timeliness with filling job vacancies is critical for employers. Because the employers have the option of either using the resources of these agencies or recruiting new workers on their own, immediate referral of qualified recipients by these assistance agencies is paramount. Any effort that can be made by INS to educate the assistance agencies with the need for speeding up the referral of their participants could increase the number of participants hired.
Needed Improvements - Coordination with Assistance Agencies
In the past, coordination between the Texas Employment Commission and the INS Dallas District Office of Investigations had been poor. The Texas Employment Commission ignored the job vacancy announcements that were mailed or faxed from the Dallas District Office. Up to the end of 1994, the Texas Employment Commission refused to cooperate with INS and the Operation Jobs Program because of the close association with law enforcement and several past conflicts with INS and some employers.
Currently, a Memorandum of Understanding is being negotiated between INS and the Texas Employment Commission. That agreement is to establish a working relationship that will link prospective job applicants with prospective employers. Such a cooperative effort could be an asset to the many employers affected by the termination of unauthorized workers and illegal aliens.
Without data on which to base an assessment of whether the Operation Jobs Program works, we could not determine the success or failure of the program. Until participating agencies collect and analyze data on the program, its viability for expansion can not be determined.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CURRENT STATUS
We recommend that the Commissioner of INS instruct the Director, Dallas District Office, to:
1. Revise the Notification of Unauthorized Employees letter to provide more detailed information about the objectives of Operation Jobs, the requirements of the law, and the associated penalties for knowingly continuing to employ unauthorized workers.
Status of the Recommendation: Closed. The Dallas District Office of Investigations has developed, and in February 1995, began using a revised letter to employers that contains more detailed information as recommended.
2. Develop procedures to ensure consistent referral of available job vacancies to the state, county, and volunteer assistance agencies.
Status of the Recommendation: Closed. The Dallas District Office of Investigations established a mission statement and new procedures in May 1995 to ensure current job vacancies aredistributed to the participating state, county, and volunteer assistance agencies.
3. Notify the state, county, and volunteer assistance agencies of the need to quickly refer their qualified applicants to prospective employers when INS transmits job vacancy referrals.
Status of the Recommendation: Closed. The Dallas District Office of Investigations notified each of the assistance agencies in June 1995 of the need for speedy referral of qualified applicants.
4. Develop an information sheet or brochure about the Operation Jobs Program and provide a list of area representatives' names and phone numbers of the participating volunteer agency personnel. This information sheet could be provided to employers both at the beginning of the compliance inspection and at the time the employers are notified of unauthorized workers on the payroll.
Status of the Recommendation: Closed. The Dallas District Office of Investigations prepared an informative employer brochure in April 1995 that contains the necessary information.
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