Immigration Reform:

Employer Sanctions and the Question of Discrimination

GGD-90-62: Published: Mar 29, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed implementation and enforcement of Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) provisions regarding sanctions against employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, focusing on: (1) the act's implementation; (2) whether the act caused a widespread pattern of discrimination against U.S. citizens or other eligible workers; and (3) whether the act caused an unnecessary burden on employers.

GAO found that: (1) the law reduced illegal immigration and did not pose an unnecessary burden on employers; (2) federal agencies generally carried out the law; and (3) the law had generally not been used as a vehicle to file frivolous complaints against employers. GAO also found that: (1) it was difficult to determine whether discrimination was a direct result of IRCA; (2) 65 percent of employers reported that they complied with IRCA; (3) persons of Hispanic and Asian origin suffered higher levels of discrimination; (4) because of the law, about 10 percent of employers began one or more discriminatory practices; (5) 78 percent of employers wanted simpler or better employee verification systems, and more employers that reported discriminatory practices desired such changes than those that did not report discrimination; and (6) about 9 percent of employers said that they only hired U.S.-born persons or did not hire persons with temporary work eligibility documents.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: After hearings in April 1992, Congress plans no legislative changes.

    Matter: Should Congress decide to retain sanctions and improve the current verification system, it should keep in mind the three principles of: (1) reducing the number of work eligibility documents; (2) making the documents more counterfeit-resistant and less vulnerable to being used fraudulently; and (3) applying any reduced work eligibility documents to all members of the workforce. Congress could then defer further consideration of repealing the sanctions and antidiscrimination provisions of IRCA until a simpler and more reliable verification system has been in place for sufficient time to evaluate its effectiveness.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress left the sanctions in place and plans no change in the future.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider: (1) leaving the sanctions and antidiscrimination provisions of the law as they are for the present time; (2) repealing those provisions; or (3) leaving the current provisions in place and enacting legislation to amend the IRCA verification system to reduce the extent of discrimination resulting from IRCA.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS developed an automated case management system for employer sanctions investigations.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Commissioner, INS, to establish an automated employer sanctions information system that can be used to more effectively implement the program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAP was revised and an accomplishment report was prepared.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Commissioner, INS, to modify the General Administrative Plan (GAP) program to provide reliable measures of employer compliance in various industries, nationwide, and within INS regions. The GAO-proposed sampling plan is one way to obtain such reliable measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS has established an enforcement information system and requires cases to be documented.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Commissioner, INS, to document in the official case file the major events that occurred during the sanctions investigation, such as: (1) whether the employer was educated about the law's requirements; and (2) the reasons for changes in the fine initially assessed that could affect the penalties for subsequent violations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: INS is reinspecting employers that have reeceived warnings but not those that have been fined.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), to begin to reinspect employers of unauthorized aliens to determine if they have come into compliance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: P.L. 101-649, section 531, carries out the intent of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Special Counsel to increase the government's efforts to educate the nation's employers on how to comply with the IRCA antidiscrimination provision, particularly medium-size employers and employers in areas of high Hispanic and Asian populations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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