HSI: Hefty fines, possible criminal charges come with hiring undocumented workers

Workshop teaches business owners how to comply

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A roomful of business owners leafed through government forms and took notes at a workshop Thursday as U.S. Homeland Security officials explained what’s expected during worksite inspections. 

“This is an outreach program for employers to ensure the integrity of their workforce,” said Vance Callender, a deputy special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations. “We want to make sure they’re in compliance with federal laws regarding employment.”

Callender said, nationally, last year, the agency conducted 1,300 inspections.

“We expect to double that number this year,” he said.

Callender said HSI has conducted 130 inspections in the San Antonio district, which extends to Waco and Del Rio. He estimated 30 to 40 of those were done in San Antonio.

“There’s civil fines that can be levied. If it’s egregious or if it’s a repeat offender, we might do criminal charges,” Callender said.

He said the fines range from $500 to $2,000 for each paperwork violation, and if there’s a history of hiring the undocumented, the fines could go up to $21,000 per worker in the country illegally.

The fines are not tax deductible to business owners. 

Callender said the undocumented workers will be dealt with administratively, arrested and deported, and will be criminally charged if they’ve been previously deported. He said, if the agency takes criminal action and there’s a search warrant, “It will be more like a raid.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar released the following statement:

“As a big proponent of compliance, rather than just enforcement, I support the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers Program, also known as IMAGE, which promotes principles of ethical business conduct, prevents the hiring of unauthorized workers, and upholds workforce integrity.”

“I would like to thank ICE Homeland Security (HSI) Investigations for their focus on compliance, as well as the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce for their coordination in planning IMAGE program meeting presentations and for making these resources available. I also thank the Chambers of Commerce from San Antonio, Laredo, and Mission and business owners in the district for working in conjunction with my offices in hosting these events.”

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