Trump Officials Are Cagey On Punishing Employers Of Undocumented Immigrants

Acting Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a briefing at the White House August 12, 2019. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

After a record 680 suspected undocumented workers were arrested during a series of raids in Mississippi last week, Trump administration immigration officials seem unable to answer one question from reporters: What happens to the businesses owners who hire undocumented immigrants in the first place?

When Ken Cuccinelli (pictured above), the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, held a press conference on Monday announcing the administration’s new restrictions against legal immigration, a journalist asked about Trump’s decision in December 2017 to commute the prison sentence of a meatpacking executive who’d hired about 400 undocumented immigrants.

“Did that decision to grant a prison commutation to this man send the wrong message to employers?” the reporter asked Monday.

“I’m not really prepared to speak to that,” Cuccinelli responded. “I don’t think so. The President does those [commutations] one person at a time.”

The acting USCIS chief said that the criminal investigations stemming from the Mississippi raids are “still ongoing” but emphasized that ICE’s growth is part of the Trump administration’s message on enforcing the law.

Other administration officials were similarly guarded on the topic over the weekend.

When NBC News host Chuck Todd confronted acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Sunday over ICE’s decision to only target workers during the Mississippi raids, McAleenan said his department is “in the middle of an ongoing investigation.”

Todd pointed out that the arrests in Mississippi contradicted ICE’s workplace arrest policy on its website, which states that the agency will “obtain indictments, criminal arrests or search warrants, or a commitment from a U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute the targeted employer before arresting employees for civil immigration violations at a worksite.”

“Didn’t the employer commit the crime?” the NBC News host asked.

“Of course,” McAleenan replied. “And we do have those employers and names who we’re targeting.”

“We’re in the middle of a criminal investigation,” he repeated later. “This case will be pursued.”

And acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan played the same tune on Sunday when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked if there were any charges against the company owners in Mississippi.

“It is a pending investigation right now,” Morgan said. “There was a criminal search warrant to go in there to collect more information, more intelligence. And that investigation is ongoing.”

Morgan also didn’t have a clear answer as to why ICE hasn’t gone after Trump’s businesses, which have hired undocumented immigrants.

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