Although President Donald Trump’s administration has presided over a sharp decline in illegal border crossings and taken the shackles off Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, it apparently has done little to crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

ICE officials said they did not have statistics for the current fiscal year on job-site enforcement, but immigration experts said there is little anecdotal evidence that the administration has stepped up enforcement from the previous regime.

“I have not heard of anything like that,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. “It could be there are things we haven’t heard of. On the other hand, you would think that they would trumpet that.”

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Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, told LifeZette via email that Homeland Security Investigations officers target employers who violate employment laws. She described it as part of a “comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy” and added that companies should treat employment records, known as I-9 forms, the way they do tax files.

“ICE is committed to establishing a meaningful, sustained Form I-9 inspection program to promote compliance with the law, part of a comprehensive strategy to address and deter illegal employment,” she wrote. “Inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws.”

Yet, the objective evidence suggests that workplace enforcement has been a declining priority in recent years. During the administration of former President Barack Obama, criminal arrests related to hiring illegal immigrants peaked at 713 in fiscal year 2011. In the fiscal year that ended last September, that number was just 239, two more than the low mark that the Obama administration established the prior year.

Federal authorities obtained 87 indictments of company managers in each of the last two years after averaging 158 a year since FY 2009. Convictions also declined, hitting a low of 49 in FY 2016, down from an Obama-era high of 193 in FY 2011.

[lz_table title=”Workplace Audits Under Obama” source=”Immigration and Customs Enforcement”]Fiscal Year,Audits

Audits of companies’ I-9 forms declined, as well. From FY 2009 through FY 2013, the government averaged 2,453 audits a year. The number was less than 1,400 each of the following three years.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, forfeitures, fines and restitutions plummeted, totaling just $2 million last year. That was down from $36.6 million in FY 2010.

[lz_table title=”Workplace Immigration Arrests” source=”Immigration and Customs Enforcement”]Fiscal Year,Management,Non-management

Krikorian said going after rogue employers serves as a deterrent and sends a signal to Trump’s supporters that the president is serious about protecting American workers and not just eager to deport illegal immigrants.

“It’s important to do workplace enforcement, not just because it’s good policy,” he said “But I think it’s politically important … You need to go after both illegal aliens and employers if it’s going to work.”

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said making it harder for illegal immigrants to work is key to stopping them from coming in the first place.

[lz_table title=”Forfeitures, Fines and Restitutions” source=”Immigration and Customs Enforcement”]Fiscal Year,Amount (in millions)

“It is a lynchpin of interior immigration enforcement,” he said. “It was actually used by President [George W.] Bush at the end of his administration, and he was not fan of immigration enforcement.”

Mehlman said the administration should press Congress to require businesses to use the E-Verify system, which instantaneously checks the names of prospective employees to make sure that are authorized to work in the United States. Many companies use the system, but it remains voluntary.

Companies that hire illegal immigrants — often at below-market wages — hurt Americans workers and businesses that follow the law, said Mehlman. Cracking down on scofflaws should be a no-brainer, he added. But he pointed to reports that the Department of Homeland Security is poised to expand the number of low-skill guest workers as evidence that the administration is being pulled away from its hawkish immigration roots.

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“It seems like they are listening a lot to the Chamber of Commerce and business organizations,” he said.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said that it may be too soon to pass judgment on the new administration’s efforts. She said it takes time to investigate and build violations before filing charges. And she added that the Obama administration transferred personnel to other priorities.

“It could be that they haven’t had a chance to reallocate resources,” she said. “That particular function was decimated under the Obama administration. So there is some rebuilding that needs to be done.”