[Excerpt] According to the estimates by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), some 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States in 2012.1 The Pew Research Center’s unauthorized alien population estimate for 2012 was 11.2 million, which included some 8.1 million unauthorized workers in the U.S. civilian workforce.2 It is widely believed that most unauthorized aliens enter and remain in the United States in order to work.
Six years ago, in 2009, DHS issued new guidance on immigration-related worksite enforcement—the enforcement of prohibitions on the employment of unauthorized aliens in the United States. In the words of DHS at the time, the 2009 guidance “reflects a renewed Department-wide focus targeting criminal aliens and employers who cultivate illegal workplaces by breaking the country’s laws and knowingly hiring illegal workers.”3 Under this guidance, promoting compliance also has taken on a larger role in DHS’s worksite enforcements efforts.
Questions arise as to how rigorous and effective DHS’s worksite enforcement efforts are and have been in past years. The department maintains data on several measures that can be used to examine the performance of its worksite enforcement program. Enforcement activity by the Department of Labor (DOL) is also relevant to a discussion of federal efforts to address unauthorized employment. DOL, which is responsible for enforcing minimum wage, overtime pay, and related requirements, focuses a significant percentage of its enforcement resources on low-wage industries that employ large numbers of immigrant—and presumably large numbers of unauthorized—workers.