In fiscal year 2011, the most recent year reviewed by AP, the median fine was $11,000. The state with the most workplaces fined was Texas with 63, followed by New Jersey with 37.
The lowest fine was $90 to a Massachusetts fishing company. The highest fine was $394,944 to an employment agency in Minneapolis, according to the data released to AP through a public records request.
A Subway spokesman said the company advises franchise owners to follow the law. A Heinz spokesman declined comment.
Bench didn't have specifics on what percentage of fines come from companies having illegal immigrants on their payroll, as opposed to technical paperwork fines in recent years.
Julie Wood, a former deputy director at ICE who now runs a consulting firm, said she'd like to see the burden of proving the legality of a company's workforce go from the employer to the government. She'd like to see a type of program, such as E-Verify, be implemented with the I-9 employment form. E-Verify is a voluntary and free program for private employers that checks a workers eligibility.
"At the end of the day, the fine is the least of it," she said. "Usually the company will spend more on legal fees. But it is a huge headache for the company to lose workers."
Wood said she'd like to see the agency go after more criminal charges and focus on companies that treat workers inhumanely.
Manuel Valdes can be reached at http://twitter.com/ByManuelValdes