The Bush administration is rolling out new rules in the coming weeks that will impose requirements and fines on companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced Friday. One of the rules will increase civil fines by as much as $5,000, or 25 percent, for employers who hire illegal immigrants, Chertoff and Mukasey said during a news conference. The rule will take effect March 27. The minimum penalty for knowingly employing an undocumented worker will increase from $275 to $375, according to the Justice Department.
The maximum penalty for a first violation will jump from $2,200 to $3,200. And the biggest increase raises the maximum civil penalty for multiple violations from $11,000 to $16,000, the department said. Mukasey said the rule will mark the first time since 1999 that fines on employers have been increased.
An increase of nearly 50 percent in the maximum penalty? One would imagine that this would have to make employers consider more seriously whether it's worth it to hire illegal immigrants. Any immigration lawyers know how frequently these fines are applied?
Leave it to the Bush administration however, to offend conservatives even as it does something they're likely to support. According to the Kansas City Star, Secretary Chertoff gave an odd rationale for why this move was necessary:
The administration contends that the actions are needed in response to congressional failure to pass “comprehensive immigration reform” that would have given illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship and created a large guest worker program.
So because there are not millions of illegal immigrants moving into the legal workforce, we must make it harder for employers to hire them illegally. I suppose that in a way, that makes sense.
Doesn't it sort of call into question the motivation behind the Bush comprehensive immigration proposal, though? It essentially says that the preferred answer to the illegal population was simply to make them all work eligible -- but as long as we're not going to do that, we're essentially compelled to enforce the law.
Not the best way to make people trust your bona fides on illegal immigration.