Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=177043
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 1:30:37 AM CST
Illinois businesses could be vulnerable to a new federal task force that will audit employee rosters for illegal workers.
The Obama administration announced the creation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement task force last week, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. It is an added measure in the administration’s efforts to reduce illegal hiring.
So what will this mean for Chicago businesses? Illinois has the fifth-largest illegal immigrant population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Amie Zander, executive director of West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, serving the Rogers Park area, said as long as companies are not hiring illegal immigrants, processes and procedures shouldn’t change much.
She thinks the task force could be a good thing for Chicago businesses.
“People come to the United States and Chicago seeking opportunities,” Zander said. “However, those who do not follow the rules cause problems for everyone. Better to enforce the rules with Chicago businesses so that there are paying jobs for legal immigrants.”
But Andrew Sagartz, executive director at Bennu Legal Services in Lake County, said enforcement-only reform is not the answer.
“With the slow economic recovery and huge deficit, now is not a good time to increase compliance burdens of business or to expand government,” Sagartz said.
Sagartz and Zanderz also both said they are concerned these audits could harm small business owners.
“We have a large immigrant community in West Ridge and my guess is that some of the small businesses may have illegal workers,” Zander said. “Whatever the fines may be, [it] may put some small businesses out.”
According to the website for the new task force, illegal workers are a problem in the U.S. economy that needs to be addressed.
“Undocumented workers create vulnerabilities in today’s marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits, and stealing identities of legal United States workers,” the site states.
Zander said companies can protect themselves by requiring documentation for all workers, particularly Form I-9, which is the most likely to be audited.
Sagartz also suggested that businesses not try to deal with an audit on their own.
“If faced with an audit, businesses should call for affordable legal help immediately,” Sagartz said.