ICE probes of businesses seem to lag under Trump

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Despite President Trump's tough talk on immigration, his administration does not appear so far to have been as aggressive as President Obama's when it comes to investigating businesses suspected of employing workers in the U.S. illegally.  The number of investigations completed under Trump does not seem to have kept up with the pace under his predecessor. The federal immigration agency denies there is a slowdown.

Employees are supposed to fill out an I-9 form when hired, certifying that they can legally work in this country. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducts I-9 audits of a business when it receives information indicating that the firm may be employing unauthorized workers, according to the agency. 

An analysis of ICE I-9 audit data found that from 2010-2016, federal agents completed an average of 2,095 audits per year, or 175 per month.

From last October through the end of June, which includes the first five months of the Trump administration, the agency completed 420 I-9 audits – an average of 47 per month.

An ICE official said the agency is currently on pace to complete about the same number of audits as in previous years, implying that there are a lot of open investigations that will be completed between now and October.

When asked to provide the numbers for completed audits at the end of June 2015 and June 2016. ICE said it could not immediately provide that information.

Polo Morales, political director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said he wouldn't be surprised if ICE completes fewer I-9 audits under Trump.  

I-9 audits were common during the Obama administration, he said, characterizing them as "silent raids," because business owners simply turned over documents.

Morales noted that under Trump, ICE has shifted its focus to field operations at homes, apartment buildings, popular lunch spots and near schools. By prioritizing these more labor intensive operations, the agency may have fewer people to conduct I-9 audits, he said.


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