This week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it had doubled the number of ongoing worksite cases in just the first seven months of the current fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year in its entirety. ICE statistics show that from October 1, 2017 through May 4, 2018, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) opened 3,510 worksite investigations and initiated 2,282 Form I-9 audits compared to opening 1,716 worksite investigations and 1,360 I-9 audits from October 2016 to September 2017. If the current pace of enforcement activity continues, ICE is on track to quadruple its enforcement initiatives by the end of Fiscal Year 2018.
The newly released statistics confirm Foster LLP’s analysis regarding heightened enforcement activity and comes in response to ICE Director Thomas Homan’s call to increase enforcement by 400 percent.
Since 1986, U.S. employers have been responsible to verify the identity and work eligibility of their new hires through the completion of the Form I-9. To confirm compliance with these obligations, ICE issues Notices of Inspection alerting business owners that ICE will be auditing their hiring records to determine compliance with immigration law.
Within as little as three business days after the issuance of a Notice of Inspection, employers must be ready to provide ICE with the company’s Forms I-9, payroll rosters and other information relating to the employer’s verification policies and procedures. Fines for non-compliance can range anywhere from $220 to $2,191 per form for paperwork violations with potential for additional civil and criminal penalties for the “knowing” employment of undocumented workers.
Preparing for Increased ICE Worksite Enforcement
Employers should act now to prepare for possible worksite inspections and I-9 inspections. Appropriate actions may include:
- Organizing all Form I-9 records and ensuring they are easily accessible, whether stored in paper format or electronically;
- Checking 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;
- Checking to ensure that a Form I-9 is on file for all former employees that were hired within the past three years;
- Conducting a pro-active Form I-9 audit with the assistance of qualified immigration counsel to identify and correct any deficiencies; and
- Developing and communicating an action plan to follow if ICE arrives at the worksite and serves a Notice of Inspection.
Additionally, employers should invest in additional I-9 training and upgrade to reputable electronic Form I-9 software to ease the burden of compliance and help increase the accuracy of Form I-9 completion.
Contact your Foster immigration attorney now to review your readiness for a potential worksite investigation or Notice of Inspection.