Trump Targets Immigrants, But Not the Employers Who Hire Them

Towards the end of George W. Bush’s second term, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began raiding plants in towns like Postville, Iowa and Laurel, Mississippi to arrest undocumented workers. There were horrific stories of everything from an abuse of our legal system to children left behind when their parents didn’t come home. Small towns were decimated and, in some cases, still haven’t recovered.

The Obama administration reversed that trend and focused ICE enforcement on employers, rather than workers.

The Department of Homeland Security, continuing its crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants, has ordered hundreds of companies in recent weeks to submit their hiring records for inspection.

This year’s first “silent raids” haven’t been publicly announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the DHS agency that conducts them. But an ICE spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that as of March 29, the agency had notified 500 businesses “of all sizes and types” to turn over I-9 employment-eligibility forms and other documents for audits…

Since January 2009, the Obama administration has audited at least 7,533 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor and imposed about $100 million in administrative and criminal fines—more audits and penalties than were imposed during the entire George W. Bush administration.

Donald Trump has made it clear that he is once again targeting undocumented workers all over the country, with ICE serving as his own private deportation force. But when it comes to putting the responsibility on employers to check the immigration status of potential employees, his anti-immigrant hardline evaporates.

In an interview with Fox News Channel conducted last week, Trump said a new White House plan to overhaul portions of the legal immigration system could “possibly” include the use of E-Verify. But he also said that the verification system could be overly onerous on certain employers, such as farmers, who Trump said were “not equipped” to use it.

“I used it when I built the hotel down the road on Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said, referring to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. “I use a very strong E-Verify system. And we would go through 28 people — 29, 30 people — before we found one that qualified.”

He continued: “So it’s a very tough thing to ask a farmer to go through that. So in a certain way, I speak against myself, but you also have to have a world of some practicality.”

Trump claims that, when building his hotel in Washington, he had to go through 28-30 people to find one that was documented. It would be reckless to believe anything that man says, and we all know that at his other properties, he regularly hired people who were undocumented. As a matter of fact, there is a whole town in Costa Rica where residents claim there has been a pipeline of undocumented workers to Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J.

The president is claiming that an E-Verify system would be difficult for farmers, as if they don’t have access to computers and the internet. The truth is much more likely that he can’t afford to anger farmers any more than he already has with his trade wars, and he knows that they can’t function without relying on undocumented workers. But beyond that, Trump would find it hard to operate his own businesses without them.

So we’ll continue to see this president demonize immigrants and refugees as dangerous, sending out ICE to terrorize and deport them. But he makes a mockery of those claims by refusing to go after the people who employ them because that hits a little too close to home, affecting his bottom line.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.