Are you prepared if ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) investigators visit your place of business unannounced, and require that you provide all Forms I-9 for all employees within 3 days? The penalties for lack of preparation could be severe, even criminal. In 2013, ICE served 3127 Notices of Inspection and 637 Final Orders for worksite compliance violations, totaling $15,808,365 in fines, and made 452 criminal arrests related to worksite enforcement investigations.
Strict adherence to immigration laws – including those laws that apply to all employees regardless of their immigration status, national origin, or citizenship – is essential to maintaining business practices that foster a culture of compliance and a good public image, minimize the risk of violations and monetary penalties, and attract the best employees.
U.S. immigration law requires all employers to complete and maintain an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 for each U.S. employee hired to perform labor or services in return for wages. The employer must verify the identity and employment eligibility of each person hired within 3 days of hire, must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each employee, and must refrain from discriminating against individuals on the basis of national origin or citizenship. The process is not as simple as it may seem, and potentially disastrous errors and pitfalls – that could lead to many thousands of dollars in penalties, among other consequences – are common throughout the I-9 completion and retention process. Strict adherence to is required and “creative solutions” to common problems in the contemporary workplace are penalized. An employer’s compliant immigration policies and practices must address:
- Proper completion and retention of Forms I-9 – competing versions of Form I-9, remote employees, authorized representatives, retention period, use of electronic I-9 forms (Abercrombie & Fitch paid a $1.047 million fine to settle a 2008 audit case in which it was charged with technology-related deficiencies in its employment verification system)
- Social Security No-Match Letters – how they are used and how they may not be used
- E-Verify – often used, sometimes required, but not a guarantee of compliance (ICE’s complaint against Speedy Gonzalez Construction, Inc.’s alleged failure to properly complete I-9s, even though the company used E-Verify)
Proper employer compliance can be facilitated through regular internal audits, regular training of human resources and legal personnel, oversight, monitoring, and regular updates on changes in immigration law, so that your business will be prepared if ICE comes calling. Benach Collopy attorneys can provide the essential guidance to your business to develop and implement policies and practices that ensure compliance with U.S. immigration laws.
If your business is investigated by ICE, Benach Collopy attorneys are experienced in preparing responsive documents, engaging in settlement negotiations over proposed penalties, and, if necessary, engaging in litigation before the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), a division of the Department of Justice, to seek significant reductions in proposed fines. As in all matters of compliance, preparation is the best defense – our attorneys can guide each step in your business’ employment verification processes.
Questions? Contact us to learn more