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Obama team's policy will target employers who hire illegal immigrants

Associated Press / May 1, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is pursuing employers who knowingly hire and exploit illegal workers, a policy not significantly different from the Bush administration's approach.

The guidelines, sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents yesterday, call for imposing fines and pressing criminal charges against employers who break the law.

The priority is to go after employers, but the policy says agents will continue to arrest illegal workers as long as local US attorneys commit to prosecuting cases against their employers.

The Obama administration stresses that humanitarian guidelines will be followed in more cases than under President George W. Bush.

As a candidate, Barack Obama promised an immigration policy that would shift emphasis away from workplace raids and place greater focus on employers who hire illegal immigrants and overall immigration reform. Some immigration advocates were hopeful Obama would sign an executive order that would freeze immigration raids, but that hasn't happened.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the agency will focus on "renewing a priority on employers who are making money off of these illegal immigrants and giving them jobs that should be going to American workers."

In 2008, ICE brought criminal charges against 135 employers and 968 workers.

Napolitano said building cases against employers could include auditing documents employees fill out when they join a company, having illegal workers go undercover, and talking to people who regularly interact with the employers.