Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan recently directed his employees to increase worksite enforcement by “four to five times.” ICE has responded in dramatic fashion in a series of high profile raids, Form I-9 audits, and worksite investigations.
On January 10, ICE agents raided close to 100 convenience stores across the country. On February 2, ICE served Notices of Inspection for Forms I-9 on 77 businesses in northern California and shortly thereafter served 122 Notices of Inspection in the Los Angeles area. During the past 30 days alone, ICE has arrested at least 444 individuals in California.
While media attention is focused on California, a significant increase in worksite enforcement activities has been reported in other states. During a seven-day operation in February, ICE arrested 145 individuals in South Texas. It also arrested nine individuals in Indiana in early March and has been serving Notice of Inspection and subpoenas for employment eligibility verification documents throughout the state.
Within as little as three business days after Notice of Inspection, employers must provide ICE with the company’s Form I-9s, payroll rosters, and other information relating verification policies and procedures. Fines can range anywhere from $220 to $2,191 per form for paperwork violations with potential for civil and criminal penalties for the “knowing” employment of undocumented workers; fines levied by ICE increased exponentially from $2 million in 2016 to $97.6 million in 2017.
Rather than wait for ICE to come knocking, employers should prepare now for a potential site visit by implementing the following tips and strategies.
- Organize all Form I-9 records and supporting documents to ensure they are readily accessible.
- Check the company’s payroll roster against the Form I-9 records to ensure a Form I-9 has been completed for every active employee hired after November 6, 1986.
- Check to ensure that a Form I-9 is on file for all former employees who were hired within the past three years and agree upon appropriate remediation measures.
- With the assistance of qualified immigration counsel, conduct a pro-active Form I-9 audit to identify any deficiencies and agree upon appropriate remediation measures.
- Develop and communicate an action plan for employees to follow if a Notice of Inspection is ever received.
Giving Form I-9 compliance higher priority within the organization could reduce both the liability and the stress created should the government appear at your worksite.
These recent high-profile enforcement activities may represent only the beginning of the new administration’s efforts to target undocumented workers and the employers who hire them. Employers should prepare now for ramped-up workforce scrutiny.
James K. Larsen and Robert F. Loughran are immigration attorneys with Foster LLP, one of the largest immigration law firms in the United States.