WASHINGTON — The Immigration and Naturalization Service, faced with complaints about its education program on employer sanctions, Tuesday unveiled new information materials and promised to distribute them by early July.
Beginning immediately, millions of worker verification forms, handbooks and videotapes will be sent to INS offices, trade associations, news organizations and employers, INS Commissioner Alan C. Nelson said at a news conference.
He said that the materials are "simple and easy to use" and that they "will encourage voluntary compliance by American employers."
The intensified campaign follows Nelson's decision last week to delay the sanctions for a month and comes as Congress is trying to decide whether to postpone them even further.
Critics have charged that many employers had incomplete or inaccurate information on the penalties, leading some to fire or turn away foreign-born workers indiscriminately. The sanctions, which include fines and possible jail terms for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, originally were scheduled to take effect on June 1, with a one-year period in which warnings would be issued to first offenders.
Nelson defended the INS education effort as adequate and asserted that fear of congressional action did not motivate him to order the one-month delay. He said he ordered it simply to allow time for delivery of the verification forms, which employers will use to certify that all new employees--including U.S. citizens--are legal residents of this country.
Nelson said that 4 million of the one-page forms, known as I-9s, will be sent to INS offices and other federal agencies by June 1 and that during June and early July an additional 7 million will be included in handbooks mailed to all employers who have an Internal Revenue Service employer number.
The forms will also be supplied to trade and labor associations, including the National Restaurant Assn., the Teamsters, the National Assn. of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A 15-minute videotape, designed to educate employers about the immigration law, is available from the immigration agency on request.
Additionally, the INS will buy newspaper advertisements containing the forms, which can be photocopied, along with instructions on where to obtain additional copies.
During June, the INS will not issue any written citations to employers unless they are "blatant violators," said Nelson, who did not define the term. Such leniency "will provide every employer in the country a reasonable opportunity to comply with this important law," he said.
In Los Angeles, INS District Director Ernest Gustafson said that, despite the June moratorium on enforcement of the new sanctions, the agency might choose to issue citations to businesses that are well aware of the sanctions and continue to "wantonly disregard the law."
Gustafson said that, over the last three years, the agency has identified more than 2,000 employers in the Los Angeles region who have been known to hire illegal immigrants. He said most were small businesses that already have been cited by the INS for violations of federal employment laws or have been the targets of repeated complaints.
Last week, the Senate voted 48 to 45 to delay the sanctions until Oct. 1. The measure will be reconsidered by the Senate this week and, if passed again, would have to be approved by a House-Senate conference committee, approved in final form by both houses of Congress and signed by the President before becoming law.
Staff writer Stephen Braun contributed to this story.