Enforcement of immigration laws continue to be of the utmost importance to the Trump administration. Recent statements made by President Trump during his State of the Union address on January 30,2018 indicate that what was foretold throughout 2017 is now occurring in 2018: greater immigration law enforcement.
Employers who have paid close attention to recent news related to worksite enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including Form I-9 audits are bracing for the impact of plans to significantly increase enforcement efforts across the nation.
During a recent press conference in Washington, D.C. Tom Homan, deputy director of ICE stated,
“I want to see a 400% increase in work site operations. We’re not just talking about arresting the aliens at these work sites, we are also talking about employers who knowingly hire people who are unauthorized to work.”
These remarks preceded a recent immigration investigation during which ICE officers raided nearly one hundred 7-Eleven stores across the nation. In 2017, ICE audited 1,360 U.S. businesses, resulting in 71 indictments and 55 convictions of business owners and managers. ICE’s worksite enforcement initiatives resulted in $97.6 million in fines and forfeitures. A reason for employers to be more diligent than ever before to ensure a legal workforce and maintain compliance with Form I-9 requirements.
As discussed in previous articles, fines for Form I-9 related violations have increased. Even the small financial penalties can easily add up ranging from $216 to $2,156 per violation.
Worksite Enforcement Strategies
ICE has recently released the following information:
“Ensuring each of its employees is legally authorized to work in the United States is one of many responsibilities facing every American business, from small start-up operations to our country’s largest and most prosperous corporations.
Tasked with enforcing the business community’s compliance with federal employment eligibility requirements, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) developed a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that targets employers who violate employment laws.”
ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. ICE also uses Form I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law.
A notice of inspection alerts businesses that ICE will audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance. Employers are required to produce their company’s I-9s within three business days, after which ICE will conduct an an inspection for compliance. If employers fail to comply with the law, an I-9 inspection of their business will likely result in civil fines and could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution.
Interagency Enforcement Efforts
On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order, which seeks to create higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers and to protect their economic interests by rigorously enforcing and administering our immigration laws.
Together with the (BAHA) Executive Order and Trump’s immigration priorities, ICE is not the only agency focused on worksite compliance. Employers should also expect to see increased enforcement efforts from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of State (DOS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Different components of the DOJ have also increased immigration enforcement. Recently, a federal grand jury brought charges against 20 undocumented immigrants for using fraudulent papers to obtain employment. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee said the indictments showed DOJ’s “renewed commitment” to criminal immigration enforcement.
The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) launched its Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative to protect U.S. workers from discrimination, settling at least two such claims already. As part of the Initiative, IER also entered into a Memoranda of Understanding with other Departments, mostly recently with DOS’ Bureau of Consular Affairs, increasing interagency cooperation.
Every employer across the nation should make compliance with employment eligibility a major priority - sooner rather than later. Learn more about how to achieve compliance in our recent article: 5 Tips to Achieving Compliance in 2018.