Monday November 30th, 2015 6:36AM

Immigration authorities target illegal hiring

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- Records show that federal immigration authorities based in Atlanta audited 105 businesses for illegal hiring practices during the last fiscal year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's analysis of records associated with the audits also shows that authorities arrested several workers and issued nearly $900,000 in fines to employers -- the third-highest total in the nation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say dozens more such audits are under way in Georgia.

The newspaper reports that the enforcement is happening amid a sharp increase nationwide in such audits, fines and arrests of managers stemming from employers hiring illegal immigrants.

At the same time, records show the government has been arresting fewer lower-level workers during work-site investigations. Critics say that practice allows illegal immigrants to freely move on to other jobs nationwide.

Asked for specifics, ICE confirmed it took action against two Atlanta-area construction contractors, fining one $357,000 and the other $255,000 for a combination of substantive and technical violations. The federal agency declined to identify the companies or discuss circumstances surrounding their cases because those cases are still pending, though an ICE spokesman said none of the businesses' owners or managers were charged with criminal violations.

The AJC says it has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with ICE, seeking the identities of the employers who have been audited, fined and arrested in recent fiscal years.

('s Ken Stanford contributed to this story.)
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