Some small business owners are complaining that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement audits touted as deterrents to hiring illegal immigrants are instead becoming a "money grab" through fines over paperwork errors.
The Houston Chronicle reports an analysis of nearly 800 audit cases ICE completed since October 2010 shows roughly half of the 117 companies fined were penalized not for hiring illegal immigrants, but for problems with employment verification paperwork.
In one example, Mike Weir's suburban Houston lightning protection company was fined $13,300 for paperwork errors after an audit found that none of his 35 workers were illegal immigrants. Weir says agents are looking for clerical errors, not illegal workers.
ICE officials say the fines are part of an overall "deterrent strategy" to keep employers from hiring illegal immigrants.