Trump loves to talk about building a wall on the border with Mexico and how it would help reduce the stream of illegal immigration. However I don't understand why they cannot approach the issue from a different angle and start penalizing their employers instead - according to many experts that would be by far more efficient than catching people crossing without a visa.

So would it be possible for President Trump to instruct the immigration services to crack down on companies hiring employees without a visa? If so, why won't he do it?

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    A link to substantiate the "according to many experts..." part, maybe ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:20
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    you seem to be under the impression that it's perfectly legal to hire illegals. there are consequences for hiring illegals already. they are not working. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:23
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    @OlivierPucher done Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:37
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    @blip immigration services are governed by the President and his team. Yes, they cannot issue fines of any kinds directly, but they can instruct their subordinates to do so (or fire them if they refuse). Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 20:15
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    The law does authorize this already and it happens on a regular basis. But, employers vote and undocumented immigrants don't, so there is a political incentive to focus on deportation.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


My apologies for rephrasing the OP's question: "Can the Trump administration instruct or direct the DOJ to step up the enforcement of laws pertaining to hiring of persons not authorized to be employed (including illegal immigrants)"

The answer is assuredly YES.

This website overview of existing laws and penalties on employing illegal aliens or persons not authorized to be employed in the US. The other item that would be helpful is for Congress to re-authorize E-Verify, that is currently in limbo.

As to WHY the current administration seems to be reluctant to enforce the INA law calls for speculation. But my guess is that many (otherwise) law abiding citizens could be swept up by enforcement. Bear in mind that the current law prohibits "any person", not just businesses (or casual, un-organized businesses) from hiring. As a practical matter that includes the homeowner who pays the "guy" to occasionally shovel a driveway.



Over twelve million businesses have at least one employee other than the owner. Are the twenty thousand Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents supposed to audit twelve million businesses with 160 million employees? And that assumes that they would have the legal basis to access the necessary documentation. In many cases, they would have to first get proof of malfeasance to get a warrant for the documentation that they need to audit immigration status.

This is currently against the law. They catch people on it regularly, including at least one major crackdown since Donald Trump became president. They've now announced a jail sentence for one convicted employer. But they can't catch everyone without more assistance. There is a system called E-Verify that is supposed to help with that. However, it is optional at the federal level.

Another problem is that not all employers are legal. Some illegal immigrants work illegally without any business registration. This is especially common with businesses like landscaping, where they hardly even need a bank account.

Beyond that, some businesses are inherently illegal. Drug dealing, prostitution, etc. are completely illegal. They don't register as businesses. They operate on a cash basis. Drug dealers in particular cross the border frequently. That's one way drugs that aren't grown or manufactured in the United States get into the country.

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    Of course, the IRS still requires you to pay taxes on illegal income, so illegal businesses may not be allowed to hire illegal immigrants either.
    – JAB
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:40
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    Employment law for even legal day laborers is really depressing. Not paying at all at the end of the day is unreasonably common even when the employer wants more people the next day.
    – user9389
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:42
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    The easiness of enforcement would depend on the penalty. If it's 1000$ per each person caught, a company might risk it. If it's 1000000$, they'd probably fire their illegal workforce. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:45
  • They catch people on it regularly, including at least one major crackdown since Donald Trump became president.- can you provide a citation for this?
    – BobE
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 17:40
  • @BobE Citation added.
    – Brythan
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 1:31

Short answer : No.

It's not the executive branch's job to issue fines : it's the legislative branche which pass bills, and the Department of Justice issue the fines.

One could make the case that the administration - the president himself in fact - can issue Executive Orders that pass as laws, but it still can't issue the fines themselves and the laws are already in place anyway. If their are still businesses that hire illegals, it's because these laws, like a lot of laws, are hard to enforce in an absolute way. People are also mugged and murdered even though these acts are also illegal, after all.

Given the body of your answer, I understand that you may not ask about the administration itself issuing fines, but about what they could do to make these fines being issued. The answer is not simple :

  • They can do nothing and let the DOJ do its job. It's already illegal, so employers can be prosecuted on that ground and be issued fines. i wrestled a bear once was kind enough to bring materials that list these fines : the legal documents are here and here and a layman description of the law can be found here. Thank you for your precision.
  • They can work on a bill to reform the existing laws and/or increase the budget allocated to investigating the hiring of aliens. It would imply a complete analysis of how it currently works and using it to find ways to improve the current legislation and/or the way it is enforced, for example by removing possible loopholes.

Since your question also address the fact that Donald Trump said a lot of things about reducing/suppressing the presence/hiring of illegal immigrants in the USA and that your subquestion is Why wouldn't he do it if it was possible, I'll give you my opinion on this, which is that he surely don't care that much about that issue, at least.

Most likely he even likes it that way because it can be used as an argument to gain support : He hammered his wall story during his whole campaign even though it's a dumb idea because it is nothing more than a catchphrase to win the support of those who don't like immigration. It's easy to understand and it makes some sense as long as you don't think too much about it, nothing more.

As a side note, given that Donald Trump never dissociated his personal interests and his job as POTUS, I am also that he wouldn't put much effort in increasing the enforcement of these laws simply because he is likely to also benefit from the work of aliens. Not having absolute elements regarding that point, I'll just leave it as food for thoughts, but he makes/made most of his money from the loans he secured with the buildings he built and has a history of not respecting agreements, including not paying contractors. I'd say he has little to no insentive in removing aliens from working given how a large proportion of them work in construction. Please bear in mind that this is an analysis, and that I write it only because the OP's second question can't be answered by references to facts.

I rewrote my answer because some points seemed to be ambiguous, leading to comments about things that weren't addressed in my answer or the question.

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    Yes. They. Can. Read my keyboard bro. It's already illegal. First offenders who hire illegals can be fined $250-$2k. 2nd offense is $2k-$5k, third is $3k-$10k and up to 6months per employee. Has nothing to do with ICE, we are talking about punishment for employers not employees, that's out of scope for ICE. No one is talking about Trumps administration personally fining people.. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:52
  • That's the DOJ imposing those fines BTW Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 15:53
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    @Iwrestledabearonce. Do you have a source for those fines? What law are the proscribed from? That is what this question is getting at.
    – user5155
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 16:21
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    @ksjohn I removed my downvote.. I don't plan on posting an answer but if you put those links in your answer I'll upvote. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 19:48
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    RE: "It's not the executive branch's job to issue fines : it's the legislative branche which pass bills, and the Department of Justice issue the fines." Ah, last I checked the DOJ is under the executive branch.
    – BobE
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 16:59

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