According to Star Tribune, Minneapolis, reporting, at least nine businesses are undergoing a so-called immigration audit, part of the Obama administration's national crackdown on employers using undocumented workers. At least 2,000 people in the Twin Cities have lost their jobs in the last 18 months as a result of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) finding that they couldn't prove their eligibility to work in the United States.

The results of ICE's audits offer a warning to businesses, especially those using low-skill workers:
• The number of audits jumped more than 50 percent last year to about 2,200 from 1,444 in 2009.
• The average fine under Obama ($21,851) has increased about 30 percent compared with the Bush era ($16,666).
• Criminal arrests of employers have jumped 45 percent since 2008. Of the 196 employers arrested last year, 42 have been sent to prison so far, with sentences ranging from time served to 3 1/2 years. Many cases are pending.

ICE's I-9 audits are named after the employment form used to verify an employee's work eligibility. The audits are a centerpiece of Obama's new strategy to hold employers accountable, as the administration shifts from arresting undocumented workers in worksite raids to targeting employers and illegal workers through employment records.

According to the reports, employees that are fired after an audit aren't typically deported, like they were previously. In fact, critics comment that these arrests and designated fines are too weak.

In one of the largest Twin Cities firings, about 1,200 janitors were let go from a unit of New York-based ABM Industries Inc. in 2009. ABM, with profits of $64 million, was ultimately fined about $108,000, roughly $90 per fired worker.

Immigration groups differ mightily on what would be the best enforcement strategy.

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