2018 has been a busy year for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as they have ramped up their raids of workplaces suspected of employing undocumented immigrants and dramatically increased the number of workers arrested and employers audited, according to an ICE news release Tuesday.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations agents carried out nearly 7,000 workplace checks, compared with about 1,700 in fiscal year 2017, the agency said. The agency also conducted nearly 6,000 audits of employers this year ― up from about 1,300 last year.
It also made more than 2,300 worksite-related arrests, compared with just over 300 such arrests last year.
ICE told the Huffington Post that it “stands by its commitment to focus on criminal investigations into employers” and added that “in contrast to prior recent years, [ICE] will arrest and process for removal workers identified during audits and investigations.”
Earlier this year, ICE raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores across the country. The agency said the raids were meant to serve as a “strong message” to other businesses to follow the law by not hiring undocumented workers.
The data showed that the majority of those arrested were employees. In total, there were 2,304 total arrests this fiscal year, 1,525 were “administrative” arrests ― which generally are arrests of workers for being unauthorized immigrants, not those deemed to have committed any other offense.
The raids and arrests have added to the fear in immigrant communities around the country.
“It’s yet another tactic that scares immigrant communities,” Randy Capps, the Migration Policy Institute’s director of research for U.S. programs, told HuffPost, noting that worksite investigations have a “huge impact on local communities.”
The Trump administration has implemented hardline immigration policies, including making all undocumented immigrants ― not just those with criminal histories ― targets for deportation.
In June 2017, then-ICE Director Thomas Homan said undocumented immigrants should “look over [their] shoulder” and “be worried.” Late that year, ICE committed to “step up” its worksite enforcement efforts, the agency said.
The one place the raids haven’t taken place are on Trump’s properties, which have employed undocumented workers for years. In a New York Times piece last week, Victorina Morales, an undocumented Guatemalan who has worked at Trump’s New Jersey golf resort since 2013.
She has been working with forged work visas for years and said that the organization either knew or didn’t seem to care that she is undocumented.
“I ask myself, is it possible that this señor thinks we have papers? He knows we don’t speak English,” Morales said. “Why wouldn’t he figure it out?”