The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Thursday, April 30, 2009 that it had issued new guidelines to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding worksite immigration enforcement strategy. The new guidelines instruct ICE to focus the resources of its worksite enforcement program toward prosecuting employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Pursuant to the new guidelines, ICE agents will first seek warrants, criminal arrests, indictments, or an assurance from the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute employers before detaining employees for civil immigration violations.

The announced policy changes mark a shift from the past administration’s worksite enforcement strategy which targeted undocumented workers in a series of high-profile workplace raids, but resulted in relatively few employer arrests. Under the new guidelines, ICE will continue to arrest and process for removal undocumented workers who are found in the course of the worksite enforcement actions. However, the primary target of worksite enforcement efforts will be employers who engage in unlawful hiring practices. The realignment of worksite enforcement priorities is seen as a significant step toward the new administration’s pledge to take on comprehensive immigration reform.

The DHS Fact Sheet regarding changes in the worksite enforcement strategy and additional information is attached.