Biden Administration Scraps Workplace Immigration Raids In Favor of Increased Employer Scrutiny

Workplace immigration raids, a resource-intensive and controversial method of identifying and processing illegally-working immigrants, have been scraped by the Biden Administration. In the last 15 years, the practice was employed by two Administrations.

First was the George W. Bush Administration (in 2007), but it backed away from these raids after a significant backlash. The second was the Trump Administration. Under the Administration, ICE raided a hundred 7-Eleven stores. The series of raids resulted in the arrest of 21 unauthorized workers. In some cases, the raids were also employed as tools of retaliation against employees who cooperated with authorities in workplace investigations.

The Biden Administration, however, is taking on the Obama Administration route.

Increased Employer Scrutiny:

The Obama Administration took a different approach when it came to unauthorized workers, and they targeted a different population set. The Biden Administration is following the same pattern. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary recently issued a memo to USCIS, ICE, and US CBP, putting an end to workplace immigration raids under the current Administration.

The Administration is instead focusing on employers who take advantage of the system and hire unauthorized workers to exploit them. In its most basic form, the exploitation is financial. These employers take advantage of the fact that not many would hire immigrants that are unauthorized to work in the US and offer them lower pay. But it can be more sinister, triggering more aggressive penalties.

The Biden Administration is set on reallocating personnel and other “enforcement resources” which they believe were being misused in chasing unauthorized immigrants, to finding and penalizing such employers. The DHS Secretary stated that it’s a more effective way to protect the local labor market, ensure better work conditions, and uphold the dignity of the individual.

New Policies And Their Impact On Exploitative Employers:

The Biden Administration intends to take concrete steps to ensure employers who take advantage of these unauthorized workers are identified and punished accordingly. They will monitor and enforce laws against illegal employment more aggressively to discourage exploitative employers and agents.

They also plan on encouraging employees to come forward and report workplace substandard and illegal practices to the proper authorities. The aim is to have relevant agencies, including DHS, ICE, Department of Labor (federal and states), DOJ, etc., coordinate more effectively to enforce the increased scrutiny.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) clearly states that employers cannot hire an individual not authorized to work on US soil due to their immigration status or hire anyone without verifying their employment authorization. But beyond that, the definition is of exploitative might be a grey area and requires further clarification. But checking for the employment and immigration status (for authorization) is a good baseline for employers.

Employers who break these laws can face both civil and criminal penalties, especially if their exploitative employment practices overlap with infractions like smuggling, trafficking, and, most importantly, harboring illegal aliens. The criminal penalties start from a $3,000 fine (per unauthorized worker) and six-month jail time. They can grow significantly harsher based on infractions and other criminal and exploitative behavior. The agents that facilitate these employments can also face these (or other) penalties.


This approach targets the illegal employment problem from the right angle, i.e., the demand and supply relationship. By targeting employers who would hire illegals in order to exploit them, the government can (potentially) curb the “demand” for such workers. This is likely