ICE Continues Form I-9 Scrutiny Against Businesses

Written by Frederik Stefani
August 6, 2019

In recent months, Immigration & Customs and Enforcement (ICE) in conjunction with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has executed a large number of Form I-9 audits such as Notice of Inspection (NOI) events to more than three thousand companies around the country. Also, three thousand more are likely on their way to additional US companies. ICE has received $6.5 million for its budget to hire new Junior Compliance Officers (JCOs) in offices in Charlotte, Charleston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Nashville/Louisville.
 
The budget and the new hiring plan support the ICE mission to remove unauthorized employment by targeting employers. This violates employment and immigration laws. ICE is trying to shift the burden to employers, who take on the cost of replacing valuable employees. Upon hearing that an ICE audit is coming, employees concerned about their documentation may simply no longer show up for work.

Upon receiving the NOI, an employer has three days to produce the Form I-9 documents for current, as well as terminated, employees. Extension requests are rarely granted by ICE. Companies sometimes also pay significant fines (from $220 to $2,292 per violation) for mistakes that occurred on Form I-9s.
 
Employers who have unauthorized employees are given ten days to terminate their employment. This, of course, has a devastating impact on the business. However, ICE can do more in surprise-targeting a large market by conducting “raids” based upon tips or information retrieved from audits. Acting Director of ICE, Matt Albence, said the goal of the agency’s surge “is to pursue criminal prosecution against those businesses [whose] business model is based upon illegal employment.” 

In 2018, ICE conducted 5,981 audits … an increase from 2017’s 1,360. This year, there were 3,282 audits in just three weeks. The most targeted industries are hospitality, agriculture, food processing, landscaping, and construction. ICE has issued the most significant penalties in history. In September 2017, one company was assessed a $9.5 million penalty. Moreover, ICE has arrested 200 workers in a raid in a technology company in Texas.
 
How Can You Prepare?
– Update Form I-9 and hiring protocols
– Proactively conduct a self-audit of I-9 Forms
– Educate and train local managers and supervisors involved in hiring and employment verification
– Work with counsel on action plans, processes, and chain of command in case of an audit or a raid

Most importantly, do not ignore an NOI from ICE.



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