For the first time since 1999, the federal government is raising the civil penalties on employers that violate immigration law, according to a recent report from the American Subcontractor's Association, Alexandria, Va‥

Announced February 22, during a joint briefing held by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Department of Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the new rule will increase penalties for violations of federal immigration law by as much as 25% on average, and apply to violations such as non-compliance with federal I-9 employment eligibility verification requirements.

Published February 26 in the Federal Register without the opportunity for public comment, the new rule stipulates that the maximum penalty for a first offense of knowingly employing an unauthorized worker will increase from $275 to $375 per violation, and the maximum penalty for multiple violations will rise from $11,000 to $16,000. Chertoff and Mukasey also announced expanded prosecutions and removals of criminal aliens, a streamlining of existing guest work programs, and a new $100 million Southwest Border Enforcement Initiative. Designed to fortify law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts on the southwest border, the new program would be created and financed by a $100 million fiscal year 2009 budget request by the Department of Justice.

Editor's Note: This news brief is excerpted with permission from the February 28 edition of asatoday, the weekly national news bulletin published by the American Subcontractors Association.