The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has issued yet another round of I-9 inspection notices to as many as 1,000 businesses located throughout the United States. Initially reported by the Associated Press, this announcement is another clear example of what has widely come to be known as the current administration’s “quiet immigration raid” policy. Instead of the high-profile immigration raids of years past, ICE has been focusing more on more on targeting employers (to the tune of 1000s) through the use of Form I-9 audits and investigations of their hiring practices.
Although ICE declined to name specific companies to be included in this round of audits, the AP is reporting that according to an ICE statement, “The inspections will touch on employers of all sizes and in every state in the nation, with an emphasis on businesses related to critical infrastructure and key resources.” You can read this Wall Street Journal article for additional insight here.
Recent I-9 Audits Numbers: The Trend is Clear
According to various reports, this latest batch of inspections will bring the total number of ICE I-9 audits to 2,338 so far for this fiscal year, which already exceeds ICE’s record-breaking I-9 audit total of 2,196 from fiscal 2010 where average audit fines exceeded $110,000.
Recently, we attended a workforce symposium in the San Francisco Bay Area where representatives from ICE, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice all spoke about their agency’s efforts to determine whether businesses are violating U.S. employment laws by hiring unauthorized workers and what step their respective departments are taking to discourage such hiring practices. The ICE agent stated that I-9 audits are the key ICE initiative on this front. The agent also warned that one of the agency’s enforcement goals was to have the resources in place to handle 10,000 annual I-9 audits by the beginning of next year. Given ICE’s current pace, this goal seems achievable.
So how can you best prepare for a potential ICE audit?
First, companies should consider conducting a preemptive internal audit to get your I-9 house in order. Then analyze your results, initiate targeted training, and standardize your I-9 practices and procedures.
As you will probably find out, the paper Form I-9 process is error-prone and hard to centralize. Therefore, after conducting the internal audit you will want to implement a trustworthy I-9 software system to keep track of all the I-9 documents, deadlines, and work visa reverification requirements.
These steps are especially important for companies that have a large number of employees, high turnover rates, and/or multiple worksites. Of course, employers should always consider the need for involving informed counsel on your employment and immigration issues.
I-9 Auditing Overview
Over the past year, we published several articles on the I-9 audit process, including potential fines. For your convenience, here are links to these various resources.
- DHS announces 1,000 new I-9 audits nationwide (February 2011)
- DHS memo sets out new I-9 enforcement strategy
- Anatomy of an I-9 Subpoena
- DHS releases I-9 penalty schedule and overview of inspection process
- The New I-9 Audit: A “Quiet” Immigration Raid
Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Information provided through this website should never replace the need for involving informed counsel on your employment and immigration issues.