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WSJ: Illegal immigrants forced into lower-paid jobs after audits

Miriam Jordan of The Wall Street Journal reports on a pseudonymous couple who illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico to settle in Minneapolis. They held jobs paying well over the minimum wage, plus benefits, before the Obama Administration began cracking down on employers. Both of them now work lower-paid jobs and work for less than the minimum wage.

More about the audits:

The audits, started by the Obama administration in 2009, put the onus on business to police workers, requiring companies to turn over employee records to federal agents. If the papers aren’t in order, the workers are quietly let go without penalty while the companies are punished.

The audits, conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, were initially hailed by some immigrant advocates as more humane because they eliminate deportation raids, the norm during the Bush administration.

But it has become increasingly clear that the policy is pushing undocumented workers deeper underground, delivering them to the hands of unscrupulous employers, depressing wages and depriving federal, state and local coffers of taxes, according to unions, companies and immigrant advocates.

It’s not clear whether their employer, ABM, looked the other way or the couple simply provided false documents. Employers are required to accept documents for an I-9 form or else be open to charges of employment discrimination. Either way, they were treated well — the husband made up to just over $14 an hour, and both entitled to paid vacation and sick days.

Minnesota required the use of E-Verify for state employees and contractors doing more than $50,000 in business with the state from 2008 until 2011, when Gov. Mark Dayton reversed the executive order of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

With the recession and increased immigration enforcement, it’s unlikely that the couple will find other jobs that pay well above minimum wage and include benefits.

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