DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE
EFFORTS TO COMBAT HARBORING AND EMPLOYING
ILLEGAL ALIENS IN SWEATSHOPS
Report Number I-96-08
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Scope and Methodology
Results of the Inspection
Illegal Aliens Working in Sweatshops
Obstacles to INS Sweatshop-Related Enforcement
Employer Sanctions Enforcement
Collection of Civil Fines
Removing Illegal Aliens
INS Can Play a Leadership Role in a Global Approach to Sweatshop Enforcement
Conclusions and Recommendations
APPENDIX I - Management's Response to Draft Report - NOT INCLUDED IN THIS HYPERTEXT VERSION.
APPENDIX II - Office of the Inspector General's Analysis of Management's Response - NOT INCLUDED IN THIS HYPERTEXT VERSION.
Sweatshops present a law enforcement problem that cuts across agency jurisdictional lines. Illegal aliens comprise a substantial portion of the sweatshop work force. The employer sanctions provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act make it unlawful for employers to knowingly hire aliens who are not authorized to work in the U.S. Sweatshop industries are particularly prone to violations of immigration laws because they offer low-skilled, low-wage jobs that are often viewed as undesirable by U.S. citizens and aliens authorized to work in the U.S.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) faces significant obstacles to effective enforcement of immigration law in sweatshops. INS has limited intelligence on sweatshop operations and their links to alien-smuggling organizations. INS employer sanctions units have the resources to investigate only a small percentage of the leads they receive concerning the employment of illegal aliens. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) completes employer sanctions inspections during its wage and hour investigations. DOL inspections have generated few useful investigative leads for INS. Furthermore, INS' relationship with DOL and state labor agencies in the field has been troubled by the latter agencies' sense of conflicting missions and their reluctance to cooperate in operations and intelligence sharing.
INS employer sanctions enforcement has relied heavily on civil fines. Civil enforcement may be a less effective deterrent for sweatshop employers than for the typical mainstream employer. Sweatshops often have a brief and clandestine existence. Sweatshop operators may prevent the collection of civil fines by quickly moving their operations, dissolving or simply discarding shell corporations, and opening up in a new location under a new name. The deterrent effect of civil fines on sweatshop operators may be vitiated by collection difficulties and INS' failure to track delinquent collections cases.
Other obstacles to effective sweatshop enforcement include INS' inability to remove most aliens found working illegally in the U.S. and the proliferation of inexpensive fraudulent documents. INS' detention and removal efforts in the interior are concentrated primarily on criminal aliens. INS removals of non-criminal aliens arrested in the worksite are so few as to have a statistically insignificant effect on the remaining work force. Counterfeit employment authorization documents also are easily and cheaply obtained. Sweatshop employers may be able to circumvent the employer sanctions provisions by employing unauthorized aliens who have obtained fraudulent documents.
INS is participating in the Deputy Attorney General's Interagency Working Group on Sweatshop Strategy Coordination. INS participation in this group could be a major component of an effective multi-agency battle against sweatshops. Some INS field units have made important strides in using interagency task forces and innovative enforcement approaches to enforceimmigration law in sweatshops and the underground economy. However, an increased INS emphasis on criminal investigations targeted against sweatshops, including using felony anti-smuggling laws to the maximum extent, could significantly increase the effectiveness of interagency sweatshop enforcement efforts.