Unfortunately, there is another sign our efforts at the border are succeeding: an increase in violence against the Border Patrol, up 31 percent in Fiscal Year 2007. Last month, for example, the Border Patrol discovered a piece of wire that had been stretched across a road between double fencing so it could be pulled tight to seriously harm or kill an agent riding on an all-terrain vehicle. We will not tolerate violence against our agents. The Border Patrol is authorized to use force as necessary and appropriate to protect themselves.
Ports of Entry
Of course, it makes little sense to secure the long stretches of border between our official ports of entry if we continue to have possible gaps in border security at the ports of entry themselves.
Since the Department's creation, we have continued to make major advances to prevent dangerous people from entering our country through official ports of entry. We have fully implemented US- VISIT two-fingerprint capabilities at all U.S. ports of entry. The State Department has deployed 10 fingerprint capabilities to all U.S. consulates overseas. We also have begun deploying 10 fingerprint capabilities to select U.S. airports (currently at 10 airport locations), with the goal of full deployment to airports by the end of this calendar year.
As you know, US-VISIT checks a visitor's fingerprints against records of immigration violators and FBI records of criminals and known or suspected terrorists. Checking biometrics against immigration and criminal databases and watch lists helps officers make visa determinations and admissibility decisions. Collecting 10 fingerprints also improves fingerprint-matching accuracy and our ability to compare a visitor's fingerprints against latent fingerprints collected by the Department of Defense and the FBI from known and unknown terrorists all over the world.
In January of this year, we also ended the routine practice of accepting oral declarations of citizenship and identity at our land and sea ports of entry. People entering our country, including U.S. citizens, are now asked to present documentary evidence of their citizenship and identity from a specified list of acceptable documentation. Not only will this help reduce the number of false claims of U.S. citizenship, but it will reduce the opportunity for document fraud by narrowing the list of more than 8,000 different documents that a traveler might present to our CBP officers. These changes are improving security and efficiency at the ports of entry. Over the next 14 months, we will continue to create an effective transition period for implementation of the land and sea portion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) beginning in June 2009.
I might add that we implemented these most recent changes in travel document requirements without causing discernable increases in wait times at the border. Compliance rates are high and continue to increase. U.S. and Canadian citizens are presenting the requested documents when crossing the border. This is a great "non-news" story, demonstrating that we can improve security at the ports of entry without sacrificing convenience.
Furthermore, as we move toward full WHTI implementation, we'll be utilizing radio frequency identification (RFID), which is a proven technology that has successfully facilitated travel and trade across our land borders since 1995 through our trusted traveler programs. RFID-enabled documents transmit a number (there is no personal information stored on the chip). WHTI will be implementing the latest state-of-the-art RFID technology, which has been assessed and tested to achieve a 95% read rate of up to 8 occupants in a vehicle at a range of 10 to 15 feet.
CBP has technology currently in place at all ports of entry to read any travel document with a machine-readable zone, including passports, Enhanced Drivers Licenses, and the new Passport Card to be issued by the Department of State. All CBP officers at the ports of entry are currently trained in the use of this technology.
In preparation for full WHTI implementation, CBP awarded a contract on January 10, 2008 to begin the process of deploying vicinity RFID facilitative technology and infrastructure to 354 vehicle primary lanes at 39 high-volume land ports of entry over the next two fiscal years. CBP deployed this new technology in vehicle primary lanes at the ports of Blaine and Nogales on February 12, 2008, in support of the anticipated RFID hardware installation.
II. ENHANCING INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT
Our second major area of focus is interior enforcement, which includes targeted worksite enforcement operations across the United States; increasing fines and penalties; seizing assets and when appropriate, seeking incarceration for those who break the law; providing better tools to help employers maintain a stable, legal workforce; and identifying, arresting, and removing fugitives, criminals, and illegal alien gang members who pose a threat to the American people.
In Fiscal Year 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed or returned more than 282,000 illegal aliens as part of a comprehensive interior enforcement strategy focused on more efficient processing of apprehended illegal aliens and reducing the criminal and fugitive alien populations.
This strategy has resulted in sustained advances across multiple areas of ICE's mission, including the continuation of "catch and return," a reengineered and more effective detention and removal system, and new agreements with foreign countries to ensure prompt and efficient repatriation of their citizens, including most recently a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam which went into effect on March 22, 2008.
Fiscal Year 2007 represented a step forward for ICE's worksite enforcement efforts. ICE made 4,077 administrative arrests and 863 criminal arrests in targeted worksite enforcement operations across the country. Ninety-two of those arrested for criminal violations were in the employer's supervisory chain and 771 were other employees.
The majority of the employee criminal arrests were for identity theft. The employer criminal arrests included illegal hiring, harboring, conspiracy, and identity theft. Some cases also included money laundering charges.
Some recent worksite enforcement cases include:
Universal Industrial Sales, Inc: On February 7, 2008, fifty-seven illegal aliens were arrested during a worksite enforcement operation conducted at Universal Industrial Sales Inc. (UIS) in Lindon, Utah. ICE forwarded roughly 30 cases to the Utah County Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution for offenses such as identity theft, forgery, and document fraud. On the federal side, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah unsealed two indictments charging the company and its human resource director with harboring illegal aliens and encouraging or inducing workers to stay in the United States illegally.
George's Processing: On May 22, 2007, a total of 136 employees were arrested at the George's Processing plant as part of this investigation into identity theft, Social Security Fraud, and immigration-related violations. Twenty-eight of these 136 employees were later indicted for identity theft and those have been adjudicated. As a result, a second indictment was returned in October 2007 charging eight human resource managers. One manager has pled guilty, and one was found guilty at a jury trial.
RCI Incorporated: On March 3, 2008, the former President, Vice President and Accountant of RCI Incorporated - a nationwide cleaning service - were sentenced to 120, 51 and 30 months respectively for harboring illegal aliens and conspiring to defraud the United States. The RCI corporate members also agreed to forfeit an aggregate sum of approximately $2.8 million. In addition, the RCI corporate members are also jointly and severable liable for approximately $16.2 million in tax penalties. A total of 244 illegal aliens were arrested as a result of this investigation.
Stucco Design Inc.: On March 7, 2007, the owner of an Indiana business that performed stucco-related services at construction sites in seven Midwest states pled guilty to violations related to the harboring of illegal aliens. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and forfeited $1.4 million in ill-gotten gains.
These are the kinds of cases that have a high impact on those who would hire and employ undocumented and illegal aliens often facilitated through identity theft and document fraud.
Increasing Fines Against Employers
As a further disincentive to hire illegal aliens, we have partnered with the Department of Justice to increase civil fines on employers by approximately 25 percent, which is the maximum we can do under existing law. This action was one of the 26 administrative reforms we announced in August and is intended to change behavior and hold unscrupulous employers accountable for their actions.
Expanding Workforce Tools
As we are holding employers accountable for breaking the law, we are also providing honest employers with an expanded set of tools to maintain a stable, legal workforce.
We are moving ahead with supplemental rule-making to our No-Match Rule published last year. As you may know, this rule provided a safe harbor for employers that followed a clear set of procedures in response to receiving a Social Security Administration Employer No-Match Letter that indicated a potential problem with an employee's records, or receiving a Department of Homeland Security letter regarding employment verifications. Unfortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union and others have sued the Department to stop the rule from taking effect. We have made progress in addressing the judge's concerns by releasing a supplemental proposed rule on March 21 that provides a more detailed analysis of our no-match policy. The supplemental No- Match proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on March 26, 2008 (73 FR 15944).
We are also working to promote the use of E-Verify, an on-line system administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that allows employers to check, in most cases within seconds, whether an employee is authorized to work in the United States. Some states have begun to require employers to enroll in E- Verify, most notably Arizona, where the system is adding about 500 new users per week. Nationally, we are adding 1,000 new E- verify users per week. More than 58,000 employers are currently enrolled, compared to 24,463 at the end of Fiscal Year 2007, and nearly 2 million new hires have been queried this fiscal year. We are expanding outreach across the country in an effort to increase participation. To support this work, we have requested $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget.
We recognize no system is perfect, and some employers may not comply with all requirements of the program. For this reason, we are establishing a robust monitoring and compliance unit to check employers' use of E-Verify and respond to situations where employers could use the system in a discriminatory or otherwise unlawful manner. We are also increasing our outreach to employers and the American public to ensure that employers and employees understand their respective rights and obligations.
Additionally, we have added a new photo screening tool capability to E-Verify that will significantly reduce document fraud. With this new enhancement, employers are able to compare the photo on DHS-issued permanent residence cards, (green cards) and employment authorization documents (EAD) with the photo held in the DHS database to determine if the document is authentic.
E-Verify is a critical program that businesses across our country rely upon to obtain quick, accurate information about a worker's legal status. It is important that Congress take the appropriate action to reauthorize E-Verify this year so that employers can continue to benefit from this valuable system.
Finally, the federal government will continue to lead by example. In the near future, the Administration will take steps to require federal contractors to use E-Verify. As there are more than 200,000 companies doing business with the federal government, this will significantly expand the use of E-Verify and make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain jobs through fraud.
Boosting State, Local, and International Cooperation
Of course, while immigration enforcement is primarily a federal responsibility, we also work with state and local law enforcement who want to participate in our immigration enforcement efforts by receiving training and contributing to joint federal, state, local, and international law enforcement initiatives.
Much of this work is organized through the ICE Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ICE ACCESS) program, which includes training under the 287(g) program, participation in Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST) and Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTF)...