Form I-9 Audits Have Already Increased Significantly
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has already commenced twice as many worksite investigations in 2018 than it completed in all of 2017, according to a recent ICE news release. Since October 2017, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has opened 3,510 worksite investigations, initiated 2,282 I-9 audits, and made 594 criminal and 610 administrative worksite-related arrests. That's up from 1,716 investigations, 1,360 I-9 audits, 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests the previous fiscal year.
ICE Planning Surge of Audits This Summer
The heightened worksite enforcement efforts will increase over the summer, according to Derek Benner, ICE's acting executive associate director for HSI. “Our worksite enforcement strategy continues to focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law, and the use of I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law,” says Benner, adding that “HSI's worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices.”
Guidance for California Employers
Worksite audits are designed to ensure that all U.S. employers verify the identity and work authorization of each employee with the Form I-9, and only employ those with proper work authorization. In addition to being aware of the increased enforcement activity, employers need to understand the serious consequences of violations of Form I-9 rules and other immigration laws.
Failure to comply can lead to criminal and civil penalties, judicial forfeitures, restitution, and debarment. In FY17, businesses were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines. Last year, one company faced financial penalties that represented the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case. Criminal arrests of employers and administrative arrests of unauthorized workers can result as well. Employers should plan for the possibility of receiving a Notice of Inspection (NOI) of their Forms I-9, or even a workplace “raid.”
Fortunately, there are steps employers can take to prepare for a government visit or inspection of their immigration law compliance, and to limit their potential liability. One such move is to participate in the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program, in which ICE certifies organizations for complying with the law. As part of the program, ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system. Keep in mind, however, E-Verify doesn't enforce compliance for people paid as independent contractors, outsourced workers or those paid off the books.
California Employment Lawyers
An experienced California employment lawyer can quickly answer your questions about the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, Form I-9, and ICE worksite investigations. To discuss these developments, or any of California's labor laws, feel free to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or click here to contact us via email.
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