The government will raise by 25 percent the fines it levies against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, officials said Friday.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the increase, which is the first boost in fines in nearly a decade.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for investigating illegal hirings, has stepped up its enforcement of the employer sanctions law in the past year, leading to a dozen major busts. Currently, fines range from $275 to $11,000 depending on the offense. The agency says some penalties could include at least six months in jail.
Between Oct. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007, ICE fined employers more than $30 million for violating immigration laws. ICE arrested 92 employers and 771 employees. The agency also began deportation proceedings for more than 4,000 people who were working in the country illegally.