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What are the Penalties for Hiring Illegal Immigrants?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 16, 2024
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Penalties for hiring illegal immigrants basically consist of fines unless the employer also violates regional laws that prohibit concealing, harboring, or transporting illegal aliens. In those cases, substantial fines and imprisonment are possible, along with seizure of property or vehicles used to commit the crime. Fines in the United States increased slightly in 2008 for businesses and individuals who knowingly employ illegal immigrants. Hiring illegal immigrants is a misdemeanor.

Employers are usually responsible to check any documents the employee presents to show he or she can legally work. Failure to fill out proper forms showing the employee’s identity has been confirmed may also be a misdemeanor with fines attached to violations. Stiffer penalties are possible if a pattern emerges showing the employer is consistently hiring illegal immigrants.

Under the harboring law, if someone hires multiple illegal immigrants within a one-year period, it becomes a felony offense that carries a potential prison term and fine. If the person smuggled or assisted in smuggling aliens into the country to find work, the penalties increase. Providing false documents to help someone work illegally, or changing records to protect the immigrant, also fall under the law.

Immigration laws may apply to any person hired to perform work for pay, except for an infrequent housekeeper. Day laborers who work for cash for various employers also fall under the law, and the person who is knowingly hiring illegal immigrants can be fined. U.S. law allows local and state law enforcement officers to arrest people who are illegally in the country.

Citizens in the U.S. can file lawsuits against companies or individuals for immigration violations under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law. The civil suits must show that two or more immigration crimes were committed. These suits can request triple the amount of damages alleged.

In the United Kingdom (UK), fines can be imposed for each instance of hiring illegal immigrants. The law is designed to keep unskilled workers from flooding the country, and to attract workers with needed abilities. Authorities in the UK conduct workplace inspections and deport illegal immigrants who are not permitted to work in the country.

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Discussion Comments
By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 03, 2014

@Reminiscence, my great-grandparents were some of those immigrants who arrived here by ship around the turn of the Twentieth Century. They were glass workers back in Slovakia, and a glass company in Toledo, Ohio was hiring as many experienced glass factory workers as they could afford. Their paperwork and immigration status weren't nearly as important as the skills they brought with them.

In my opinion, that's the difference between those immigrants of the past and the so-called illegal workers today. Back then, the jobs those immigrants were doing, like steel work, glass making and brick laying, were seen as a noble thing. They were helping to build America. But now the perception is that these illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans.

By Reminiscence — On Feb 03, 2014

The illegal immigration and illegal employment situation in the United States has been brewing for decades. At one point in history, US companies needed skilled foreign workers so badly that the US government allowed millions of immigrants to enter the country as long as they had proof of a job offer and the name of an American sponsor. Many people today are the direct descendants of those barely legal immigrants from Europe and Asia.

The difference now is that US companies claim they no longer need skilled laborers from other countries. They can find a good labor pool within the borders of the US. But thousands of menial labor jobs, such as agricultural harvesting and poultry processing, are largely filled by illegal or undocumented workers from Mexico and other countries below the southern border.

Getting rid of all these undocumented workers might satisfy the letter of immigration laws, but it would create economic hardships as well. There are jobs that most Americans would not do willingly, since unemployment benefits and social welfare programs offer a better standard of living than working a menial minimum wage job.

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