Posts Tagged ‘ICE’
Thursday, August 9th, 2012
In a decision dated June 7, 2012, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (“OCAHO”) handed down a substantial fine against a small business employer for failure to properly complete Form I-9.
In particular, Administrative Law Judge Ellen K. Thomas ruled that failure to complete Form I-9 Section 2 by reporting only List B on the I-9 constitutes a “substantive violation” of federal employment verification laws, even if photocopies of List A and/or C documents are kept in employee files. This finding is opposed to a ruling that such a failure to complete Section 2 would constitute a mere “technical violation” were lesser fines would have been imposed.
In U.S. v. Four Seasons Earthworks, the 22-person employer was served with a Notice of Inspection and Administrative Subpoena by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). Upon review of I-9s relating to 19 employees – including several family members of the family-owned business – ICE found that the employer entered information in Form I-9 Section 2 corresponding only to a List B document. Under the I-9 regulations and instructions, an employer must verify employment eligibility by inspecting a List A document (substantiating both identity and employment authorization, such as a U.S. passport) or by inspecting a List B (substantiating identity, such as a state driver’s license) and List C document (substantiating employment authorization, such as a social security card). The employer must then use those documents to fill out the form properly.
The employer argued that because it made photocopies of List A or List B and List C documents, it nonetheless complied with the regulations and any such violations should be considered to be merely technical. However, the OCAHO ruled that the regulations specifically provide that photocopying does not relieve the employer from the requirement to fully complete Section 2.
This case should serve as a warning to other employers to ensure that I-9s are properly completed and that Human Resources personnel are properly trained. It is important to note that both ICE and the employer were in agreement that each worker for the company was authorized to accept employment. Nonetheless, because the employer failed to properly complete Section 2, the violations were ruled to be substantive. Under the law, employers can face penalties ranging from $110 to $1,100 for each Form I-9 substantive violation.
In determining the level of the penalties, the ALJ found that there were mitigating factors that warranted a reduction in penalties including the following: 1) the employer was a small business; 2) it suffered an economic downturn and a related business went bankrupt; 3) it acted in good faith; and 4) its violations were not as serious as the total failure to complete an I-9 or obtain an employee signature. As such, the ALJ imposed a fine of $500 for each violation. Indeed, the employer could be considered to be fortunate to an extent considering that it could have faced a fine of $20,900 had these factors not been in its favor. Other companies in this situation might not have been so “lucky.” The case is important as it shows that even small employers with a legal workforce can face substantial fines simply because their I-9s are not properly completed.
Contact your Klasko Law attorney for guidance regarding federally mandated Form I-9 for employers and other issues relating to employment verification and worksite compliance.
Sunday, October 31st, 2010
This month, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced that ICE’s worksite enforcement numbers have climbed to historic highs with record breaking numbers of I-9 audits, fines and increased criminal prosecution of employers.
ICE announced that since January 2009, it has conducted I-9 audits of more than 3,200 US employers, more than ever before. By comparison, in fiscal year 2009—itself a banner year for I-9 audits–ICE conducted approximately 1400 audits. The audits conducted since January 2009 also resulted in record breaking penalties–ICE debarred 225 companies and individuals from doing business with the federal government and imposed approximately $50 million in sanctions for worksite enforcement violations. The increase in audits and sanctions is dramatic–ICE explained that the figures for just this year are higher than the total amount of audits and debarments for the entire Bush administration.
ICE also actively pursued criminal enforcement of employers–in fiscal year 2010, ICE charged 180 business owners, employers, managers, or supervisors with hiring illegal aliens, up from 135 in fiscal 2008 and 114 in fiscal 2009.
ICE pledged to continue aggressive enforcement against employers stating “enforcing worksite laws not only promotes fairness in the workplace, but it also substantially reduces the incentive for aliens to enter the United States illegally.”
These record breaking numbers reflect implementation of a new worksite enforcement strategy first announced by the Obama administration in April 2009. Rather than large scale raids, the new focus is on employers. As part of this strategy, ICE identified I-9 audits as an important administrative tool in building criminal cases, issuing civil penalties such as fines and bringing employers into compliance with the law. Not only will ICE use traditional criminal enforcement methods, but the guidance to the field emphasizes that administrative tools will be used “to advance criminal cases, and in the absence of criminal charges, to support the imposition of civil fines and other available penalties.” Indeed, the guidance makes clear that the “the most important administrative tool is the Notice of Inspection (NOI) and the resulting Form I-9 audit” as it will not only support the imposition of civil fines and other available penalties, but it “will often serve as an important first step in the criminal investigation and prosecution of employers.”
Consistent with this use of I-9 audits as the key administrative tool, ICE announced a nationwide initiative to audit employers’ Form I-9 employment eligibility verification records. As part of this initiative, in the first week of July 2009 alone, ICE issued Notices of Inspection (NOI) to over 650 employers across the country. In comparison, only 503 Notices of Inspection were issued in all of fiscal year 2008. As explained in earlier postings, ICE continued such widespread audits throughout the year, ultimately resulting in over 3200 audits. This widespread enforcement initiative is much different than any in the past. In the past, initiatives often focused on the most likely offenders—employers in industries such as meat-packing, construction, landscaping and manufacturing—commonly believed to regularly hire unauthorized workers. While these businesses were included within the I-9 audits, the reach was much broader to include a wide variety of businesses throughout the entire country. The message is clear—no employer is safe from an I-9 audit and investigation.
In order to avoid potential liability, employers are well advised to develop and implement detailed I-9 policies and practices. ICE recommends that employers, at a minimum, establish an internal training program, with annual updates, on how to manage completion of Form I-9 and how to detect fraudulent use of documents in the I-9 process; permit the I-9 and any E-Verify process to be conducted only by individuals who have received training; and include a review of the completed I-9 and documents by a second person as part of each employee’s verification to minimize the potential for a single individual to subvert the process. Regular audits–conducted before ICE comes knocking on the door– are also key to obtain compliance and limit liability.
For more information, contact Elise Fialkowski at Efialkowski@klaskolaw.com
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued its “Form I-9 Inspection Overview,” to educate employers on Form I-9 audits, and alert the public of its new penalty schedule. ICE’s Worksite Enforcement Unit released the I-9 Inspection Overview along with its announcement that it will issue a thousand new Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to employers, as Klasko reported on November 20, 2009. Form I-9 is used by employers to verify the work authorization of new employees hired after November 6, 1986.
A complete description of the inspection and fine process, after the jump.
Friday, November 20th, 2009
On November 19, 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for investigating immigration violations and enforcing immigration laws at the worksite, announced that it was issuing 1,000 new Notices of Inspections (NOIs) to employers across the country. In particular, ICE announced that it would target employers located at critical infrastructure sites which include airports, military bases, defense facilities and seaports. This announcement comes on the heels of a summer which saw the issuance of NOIs to 652 employers across the country. Secretary of ICE, John Morton stated, “ICE is focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces. We are increasing criminal and civil enforcement of immigration-related employment laws and imposing smart, tough employer sanctions to even the playing field for employers who play by the rules.”
Morton went on to explain that the businesses that were to receive the NOIs were selected for inspection as a result of investigative leads and intelligence, as well as their connection to public safety and national security. DHS did not release the names and locations of the businesses to be audited due to the ongoing, law enforcement nature of the investigations.
As Klasko Law reported earlier this year, ICE’s main priority in worksite enforcement actions is to target employers who knowingly hire unauthorized aliens in violation of federal law. An internal ICE memo released to the public through a freedom of information act earlier this year indicated that the agency views worksite enforcement investigations against employers as the best means of targeting and curbing the root causes of illegal immigration. As such, ICE has made the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers their top priority. This includes the imposition of criminal charges against owners, corporate managers, supervisors and others in the management structure.
However, as ICE investigations to date have shown, employers who make inadvertent errors on their I-9 forms or in the verification process are held liable by the agency for civil penalties in the event of an audit. The current focus on investigations and prosecutions is a significant departure from the days of legacy INS when employers could expect a slap on the wrist in the form on minimal fines as just another cost of doing business. In this era of increased enforcement, employers must proactively preempt immigration related liabilities. Employers should conduct internal I-9 audits to identify issues and correct violations. Part and parcel of these reviews should be an evaluation of the employers’ current record keeping practices, to determine if new training programs are needed for HR personnel. Immigration counsel can be invaluable during these times in developing best practices including establishing protocols for the verification of the identity and work eligibility of new hires, advising employers on safeguards against discrimination in the I-9 process and advising on the use of E-Verify.
In addition, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and ICE announced that they were launching a new I E-Verify campaign to recognize the 170,000 employers nationwide that have registered for E-Verify. E-Verify is an internet-based Employment Eligibility Verification System run by USCIS that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of certain employees. To use E-Verify, an employer enters employee information from the Form I-9 into the web-based system. E-Verify then runs that information against records in the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases to confirm whether the employee is authorized to work in the United States.
For more information on worksite compliance, ICE enforcement actions, the E-Verify program and how these developments impact your business please visit our website www.worksite-compliance.com or consult with a Klasko Law attorney.
Friday, October 9th, 2009
In the first week of October, an internal ICE memorandum was released to the public in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The memo outlines ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy policy and explains that while the agency continues to levy civil files, “ICE is re-focusing efforts to develop criminal cases against employers who hire and use illegal workers.”
The memo reiterates the announcements made earlier this year by Obama Administration officials regarding this focus on employers as the primary means for deterring illegal immigration to the U.S. In July, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano went on record with her promise to audit employers to ensure their compliance with immigration regulations. Likewise, ICE Secretary John Morton has publicly stated that ICE will continue to crackdown on employers who hire unauthorized workers. These announcements were followed by the issuance of hundreds of Notices of Inspection to employers around the country.
In this era of enforcement it is critical for employers to avoid immigration related liabilities due to non-compliance with federal immigration regulations by reviewing their internal policies and procedures. Internal I-9 audits can identify issues and correct violations. Training of human resources personnel on all aspects of immigration compliance will ensure that companies establish proper record-keeping procedures. These important steps can limit a company’s liability in case of government inspection.
For more information on I-9 compliance please visit our website www.worksite-compliance.com
Friday, September 18th, 2009
John Morton, the newly appointed Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for investigating immigration violations and enforcing immigration laws at the worksite said this week that ICE will continue to crackdown on employers who hire unauthorized workers. He warned employers that “You are going to see audits regularly and on a larger scale.” Secretary Morton reiterated that the agency is set to increase the number of companies it will audit and will civil impose fines on violators. ICE will also pursue criminal charges against bad-faith actors.
Secretary Morton’s comments reiterate the announcement made on July 1 by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that the agency would actively audit employers to verify whether their employees were eligible to work. He further confirmed that there are 654 companies currently under investigation ICE and that many more employers will receive Notices of Inspection soon.
Most recently, ICE’s audit of American Apparel, Inc. a clothing manufacturer and retailer made national headlines after the company announced that it would be laying off 1,500 employees following receipt of a Notice of Inspection. The layoffs are estimated to impact 25% of the company’s workforce. American Apparel, Inc. is also likely to face thousands of dollars in penalties for hiring workers who weren’t eligible to be employed. The government has publicly stated that fines against the company may exceed $800 per unauthorized employee. Earlier this year, Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation was also fined by ICE for violations of immigration laws following an audit of the company’s I-9s that revealed that the company employed dozens of illegal aliens at one of their doughnut factories in Cincinnati.
With the Obama Administration’s support of increased I-9 enforcement actions, it is clear that employers must pre-empt immigration related liabilities due to non-compliance with federal immigration regulations by being proactive. Internal I-9 audits are invaluable tools for identifying issues and correcting violations. Bringing in experienced immigration counsel to train human resources personnel on all aspects of immigration compliance and establish proper record-keeping procedures can significantly limit exposure and liability.
Employers who receive notices of inspection are advised to contact their immigration counsel as quickly as possible. Generally, these notices only provide three days for the employer to submit their I-9s to ICE for review. This short period of time is critical. Counsel must be contacted as quickly as possible. Employers must gather all of the company’s I-9s and supporting documentation to make sure that it is available to ICE. It is advisable to have counsel review the company’s payroll to identify any discrepancies between the number of employees and the company’s I-9s. All efforts should be made to correct any I-9s with obvious errors. Company representatives responding to the Notice of Investigation should always retain copies of any documentation submitted to ICE. Employers who can demonstrate good-faith efforts to comply with immigration laws are more likely to be assessed lower level civil fines if violations are uncovered.
For more information on government investigations and how I-9 compliance requirements affect your business please visit our website http://www.worksite-compliance.com.
Friday, May 1st, 2009
Klasko, Rulon, Stock & Seltzer LLP is pleased to announce the launch of our new micro-site entirely dedicated to providing employers with “need-to-have” resources to stay in compliance with US Immigration laws. The new site provides extensive information to businesses on federal and state worksite compliance laws, I-9 enforcement, E-Verify, Social Security no-match letters and H-1B Labor Condition Application compliance issues.
Special features on the site include:
· An I-9 Desk Reference Handbook (covering Employee Verification, Employer Sanctions and Anti-discrimination laws)
· An E-Verify State-by-State Legislation Survey.
The new site is www.worksite-compliance.com. We hope that you find our new site helpful and informative.
Friday, April 24th, 2009
President Obama’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, faced a Senate panel for his confirmation hearing this week. He pledged to continue to prosecute bad-faith employers who hire unauthorized workers. Morton also announced that the Administration intends to eventually make use of the E-Verify, online employment verification program mandatory for all employers.