Administrative Changes Needed To Reduce Employment of Illegal Aliens

HRD-81-15: Published: Jan 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1981.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Franklin A. Curtis
(202) 275-5451
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

American citizens are being displaced from the work force by illegal aliens employed in the United States. The Department of Labor lacks the necessary enforcement tools to deter employers from hiring nonagricultural undocumented workers. Employers making a practice of hiring such workers remain virtually free from punishment. The President proposed legislation which would make the hiring of undocumented workers subject to civil and/or criminal penalties, but the legislation was not enacted. The proposed legislation would have: (1) intensified enforcement of both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act; (2) adjusted the immigration status of certain undocumented aliens; (3) increased the resources available to prevent illegal immigration along entry points; and (4) promoted cooperation with nations that are the major sources of undocumented workers. Two hundred and sixty additional Labor employees were authorized to begin investigations and enforce the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act. By enforcing the minimum wage and overtime requirements, Labor believed that there would be no incentive for hiring undocumented workers. The Labor program had little impact on hiring undocumented workers when their wages were above established minimums. GAO examined 606 Labor investigations and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) records.

GAO found that Labor did not concentrate enough of its investigations on companies where INS found undocumented workers. It focused on wage complaints received from employees, which would ordinarily be investigated during routine enforcement efforts. Labor's compliance officers were not authorized to question employees covered by the FLSA about their citizenship status. Because of its high case load, INS may not have been able to act on additional Labor referrals. Employers were permitted to retain back wages owed to undocumented workers who could not be found. Farm labor contractors generally did not prepare required written documentation on workers' citizenship or work permit status. Labor erroneously believed it did not have authority to question farm labor contractor employees' citizenship or work permit status. Labor had a substantial backlog of cases awaiting prosecution for violations of the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act. Labor took several steps to improve the undocumented worker program; however, additional statutory and administrative changes are needed if the Federal program is to be effective. Both agencies should continue to exchange information necessary to ensure that employers pay workers in accordance with the minimum wage and overtime laws and that undocumented workers are identified and dealt with according to immigration laws.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the FLSA to require that back wages resulting from violations of the act found to be due employees, whether undocumented or legally entitled to work in the United States, who cannot be located, be deposited in the U.S. Treasury as miscellaneous receipts.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should act more aggressively to reduce the backlog of prosecution cases for violations of the act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should: (1) enforce the regulations that require farm labor contractors to show evidence that they made a bona fide inquiry into each prospective employee's status as either a U.S. citizen or alien authorized to work in the United States.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 15, 2016

Aug 15, 2016

Aug 1, 2016

Jun 20, 2016

Jun 13, 2016

May 25, 2016

Apr 14, 2016

Mar 10, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here