DHS Immigration Actions Update
Posted on 2/15/2012 by Nicolas Dufour
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I-9 and E-Verify,
Posted by Nicolas Dufour
Chief Regulatory Counsel
According to testimony delivered by Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security, to Congress in October 2011, since Fiscal Year 2009 ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has “audited more than 6,000 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor, debarred 441 companies and individuals, and imposed more than $76 million in financial sanctions.” Additionally, for Fiscal Year 2011, ICE has criminally arrested 221 employers accused of employment violations. There are no signs that the agency has any plans to slow down. This is a marked departure from the workplace ‘raids’ conducted during the previous presidential administration. It also places a renewed emphasis on the need for employers to have a compliant and uniform I-9 process in place.
This news comes on the heels of a number of recent cases prosecuted by ICE against employers who knowingly hired illegal workforces. In Houston, two large manufacturing organizations have each agreed to pay $2 million in fines for hiring undocumented workers, not taking corrective measures when receiving “no match letters” from the Social Security Administration, and for employing workers with “egregiously suspect” identification documents. Whereas many high profile businesses have made the news recently for paying ICE fines including Chipotle and Abercrombie and Fitch, it should be noted that ICE continues to audit and prosecute where appropriate small and mid-sized companies throughout the US.
To help employers prepare for potential audits and minimize I-9 compliance vulnerabilities, ICE has created the IMAGE program (Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers). A voluntary program, IMAGE requires employers that join to agree to complete self-assessment questionnaires, enroll in the E-Verify program, enroll in the Social Security Number Verification Service, follow IMAGE Best Practices, and undergo I-9 audits by ICE. In return, participating employers receive education and training on hiring procedures and detecting fraudulent documents, hiring policy review and recommendations, advice on minimizing the disruption of business operations resulting from self-disclosure of potential violations, and recognition as a member of the program.
Regardless of whether or not an employer decides to join a program such as IMAGE, having a system in place to manage employment eligibility and I-9 forms is critical. Penalties resulting from either substantive or technical violations can result in sizeable fines and, depending on the severity of the violations, criminal prosecution. Employers should be aware that audits are becoming more commonplace for organizations of all sizes and I-9 compliance measures are critical for preparation.
The above article is not offered as legal advice but is instead offered for informational purposes. First Advantage Corporation is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. The above article is therefore not intended as a substitute for the legal advice of an attorney knowledgeable of the user’s individual circumstances. First Advantage Corporation makes no assurances regarding the accuracy, completeness, currency or utility of the above information. Legislative, regulatory and case law developments regularly impact on general research.