Businesses employing illegal immigrants will be ruthlessly targeted under tough new laws, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne pledged yesterday.
Every visitor to Britain will be obliged to have an identity card - so employers and public services can check their residency status, the Birmingham MP said.
But business leaders last night hit back, insisting they should not be penalised because of failings in the immigration system.
CBI deputy director general John Cridland said: "We look to the Government to ensure that only those who knowingly flout the law will be targeted.
"Striking off company officers or seizing assets would be a disproportionate reaction to an unwitting offence and would risk alienating business."
Mr Byrne helped draft a detailed plan for restoring confidence in the immigration service, published by Home S ecretary John Reid yesterday.
He is working alongside Lin Homer, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate director general and former chief executive of Birmingham City Council.
The third person in the team also has strong Birmingham links.
Stuart Hyde, the former Assistant Chief Constable at West Midlands Police, was recruited to the role of Senior Director of Enforcement and Compliance with the immigration service.
Speaking yesterday, Ms Homer said she had expected her role to be a huge challenge when she took it on.
"I think working for Birmingham City Council was good practice for the job.
"Working in Birmingham really brought home to me the importance of managing migration well, for the economy and for social cohesion," she added.
The proposals unveiled yesterday included rules ensuring travellers from out-side the EU will need ID cards when visiting Britain.
"They will pay the costs themselves, Mr Byrne said.
Rogue employers who persistently employ illegal workers could have their assets seized and be disbarred from serving as company officers.
Consultations will take place on making it easier to deport people under UK law, and immigration staff such as passport control officers will also have their own uniforms, to make them more visible.
Mr Byrne said: "It is part of a range of measures which includes tougher border defences, detecting and deporting people who are here illegally and doubling the budget for enforcement.
"And we will introduce compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals from 2008.
"People are not coming here illegally because of the weather. They are often here to work illegally.
"One of the ways we can deter people from coming here illegally is by cutting down on the number of employers will-ing to take them on."
There will be fines of £2,000 for employees taking on illegal workers, and the possibility of court action leading to stiffer penalties.
"But if we are going to ask employers to take on that responsibility, then we have to make it simpler for them to check that other people are eligible to come here and work."
The reform plan will also see the backlog of unresolved asylum cases cleared within five years.
Mr Cridland said: "The Home Office must not penalise business in its desire to tackle the problems of illegal immigration and working.
"While the small minority of rogue employers who deliberately hire illegal workers must have the book thrown at them, those who unwittingly employ them must be supported," he added.