ICE Increases I-9 Audits

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ICE Increases I-9 Audits

The Trump Administration has adopted a “putting American workers first” slogan as a centerpiece of this presidency. To confirm the President’s words, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release on July 24, 2018, describing the second phase of a nationwide operation to crack down on hiring unauthorized workers.

In short, the Homeland Security Investigations division (HIS) has sent over 5,200 Notice of Inspections since October 2017. Furthermore, HSI has made 675 criminal and almost 1,000 administrative worksite-related arrests. This enforcement should serve as a warning to employers that they must take I-9 compliance seriously.

Violations Will Cost You

Employers who take a slack approach to I-9 compliance are in for a shock when HSI comes knocking. You can be fined $559 per employee for hiring or employing an unauthorized worker knowingly. If you are a repeat offender, then your fines can be as high as $22,363.

Employers can also receive sanctions for paperwork violations, which can range from $224 to $2236 per violation. Other punishments include penalties, additional fines, and forfeitures. If you are a government contractor, you can be debarred from federal contracts in the future.

How to Respond to an Audit

Let’s say an auditor or ICE agent shows up at your company headquarters with a Notice of Inspection (NOI). What now?

Obviously, it is too late to get your books in order and start being strict with compliance. You should know that you have three days to respond to the NOI. For good reason, you can get an extension, but you should not expect it.

Most audits will focus on the I-9 of current employees, but the agent can request the I-9 also for terminated employees. The NOI should also contain a subpoena with additional document requests for things like:

  • E-Verify information
  • A list of current employees
  • Payroll records
  • Quarterly wage and hour reports
  • Information about your business, such as your EIN
  • List of subcontractors

If you use an electronic I-9 system, then you might need to provide additional information.

Take Audits Seriously

One mistake some business owners make is not taking the NOI seriously because they are a small business and doubt that the government is truly interested in their I-9 compliance. Nothing could be further from the truth. The government agent is at your doorstep for a reason. The penalties for noncompliance are so severe, that you should immediately swing into action.

After notifying management about the NOI, you should immediately retain counsel. Make sure to hire an immigration attorney who has experience with compliance issues and internal audits. It can take quite a bit of time to collect all required information, and you do not need a lawyer who needs time to get up to speed on what is required.

If you have received an NOI, do not panic. The immigration audit attorneys at Kriezelman Burton & Associates are here to help. Our Chicago I-9 compliance lawyers are prepared to help you meet your obligations, and we can also discuss post-audit issues so that your company will stay out of the government’s radar now and well into the future.