1,000 firms targeted for audits in illegal hiring crackdown

@CNNMoney June 15, 2011: 7:35 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In an intensifying effort to battle illegal immigration, the U.S. government sent notices to 1,000 companies on Wednesday alerting them that auditors will be examining their hiring records.

The employers, ranging from small businesses to major enterprises, will be subject to inspections by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to determine whether or not they are hiring illegal workers. The agency declined to release the names of any of the companies being audited.

"The inspections will touch on employers of all sizes and in every state in the nation, with an emphasis on businesses related to critical infrastructure and key resources," ICE public affairs spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a written statement.

The audits are focused on industries considered vital to U.S. domestic security, including agriculture, banking, energy, information technology, health care and transportation systems.

This move brings the the total of so-called "I-9 audits" to more than 2,300 so far this year, topping last year's total of 2,196 audits.

The audit surge is an effort to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, an issue Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano began focusing on in April 2009, according to Christensen.

"As part of that strategy, we radically stepped up the use of I-9 audits," she said. "Basically they were barely doing them."

The number of I-9 audits rose from 500 in fiscal year 2008 to 1,444 in 2009. Last year's audits resulted in the criminal arrest of 196 employers, and 119 convictions.  To top of page

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