DHS memo sets out new I-9 enforcement strategy

An internal memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been released, which highlights the agency’s new worksite enforcement directive against employers and emphasizes the importance of the Form I-9 Audit. The memo, which is stamped April 30, 2009, had been alluded to in a Worksite Enforcement Fact Sheet posted online as well as the infamous “Bold New I-9 Inspection Program” press release issued by ICE chief, John Morton in July when 652 notices were sent to employers nationwide.

Here’s a brief summary of the four-page memo, which is provided in its entirety below.

  • ICE will prioritize the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. This includes owners, corporate managers, supervisors and others in the management structure.
  • ICE should use all available investigative methods including use of confidential sources and cooperating witnesses, undercover agents, intercepts, and Form I-9 audits.
  • The most important administrative tool is the Notice of Inspection (NOI) and the resulting Form I-9 audit. It will be used in both criminal and administrative investigations.
  • Civil fines will be used as a penalty when the evidence does not support a criminal prosecution or as otherwise appropriate.
  • ICE should use debarment (which precludes companies who have knowingly hired undocumented workers from securing work on federal contracts) to maximize the deterrent effect.
  • ICE will initiate audits, searches, and other enforcement operations at critical infrastructure and national security sites.
  • All worksite investigations must provide 14-day notice to ICE headquarters in advance of developing or executing enforcement activity.