Can fines stop illegal immigration?

Dan Grech Feb 22, 2008

Can fines stop illegal immigration?

Dan Grech Feb 22, 2008


Kai Ryssdal: This past summer the Bush administration launched a crackdown on illegal immigration — everything from increased security at the borders to keeping a closer eye on employers.

Today, the White House tightened up even more. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced higher fines for companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

It’s a 25 percent boost…the first increase in nearly a decade.

Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports from the Americas Desk at WLRN.

Dan Grech: Employers who repeatedly hire undocumented workers could be fined up to $16,000 dollars per worker. That’s a $5,000 dollar increase.

Mark Krikorian: They could be a billion dollars for each violation, but if no one’s ever fined, then it doesn’t matter what they are.

That’s Mark Krikorian with the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that seeks to reduce immigration to the U.S.

Krikorian: Through most of the Bush administration, issuance of these fines essentially stopped. In 2004, only three employers in the entire United States were fined for hiring illegal aliens. Three.

He says enforcement has increased slightly since then, but it’s not systematic.

Tamar Jacoby is with Immigration Works USA, which promotes comprehensive reform. She says the basic problem is that the U.S. economy needs 50 percent more workers than current quotas allow.

Tamar Jacoby: It’s a little bit like trying to enforce a 500 calorie a day diet — very hard to enforce and often very painful for the dieter.

John, who asked us not to use his last name, runs a vegetable farm that relies on immigrant labor. He says he’s more worried about having enough field hands than getting fined.

John: Fertilizer prices have literally doubled since last year, fuel prices are up dramatically and then if we can’t harvest the crop, I mean, I’m concerned about the food supply and the cost of food this year.

Next season, he says he’ll plant more crops that can be harvested by machine.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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