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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. OCAHO Finds State Employer Had Sovereign Immunity

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    Attachment 1213

    In Ugochi v. North Dakota Dept. of Human Service, 12 OCAHO no. 1304 (July 2017), the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) dismissed Chiaha Ugochi’s complaint that she was discriminated because of her citizenship status and national origin, the employer retaliated against her and committed document abuse.

    The case began with Ugochi filing a charge against her employer, North Dakota State Hospital, alleging it discriminated against her. Immigrant and Employer Rights Section of the Department of Justice dismissed her case due to insufficient evidence of discrimination or retaliation and referred the national origin claim to the EEOC, who has jurisdiction on national origin claims involving employers with more than 14 employees.

    Thereafter, Ugochi filed a complaint with OCAHO alleging she was fired because her employer asked for excessive documentation in the I-9 and E-Verify process. The employer responded that it was entitled to sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for her termination - she failed a background check.

    In analyzing the employer’s defenses, OCAHO noted the employer in question is the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency. Due to the employer being a state agency, one must review the 11th Amendment which states, “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court “has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” There are two exceptions to a state’s immunity from suit under the 11th Amendment. The first exception is where Congress has statutorily abrogated such immunity by “clear and unmistakable language.” The second exception exists when the state has expressly waived its immunity.

    OCAHO found sovereign immunity applied to the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency; thus, it enjoyed immunity from these proceedings pursuant to the 11th Amendment. Neither exception to immunity is present in the instant matter. Accordingly, because Ugochi’s complaint is barred, the Motion to Dismiss was granted.

    On a personal note, last week the immigration bar lost a true advocate for immigrants, Yvette Sebelist, my law partner. May she rest in peace.

    Updated 08-22-2017 at 11:11 AM by BBuchanan

  2. OCAHO Finds State Employer Had Sovereign Immunity

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    In Ugochi v. North Dakota Dept. of Human Service, 12 OCAHO no. 1304 (July 2017), the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) dismissed Chiaha Ugochi’s complaint that she was discriminated because of her citizenship status and national origin, the employer retaliated against her and committed document abuse.

    The case began with Ugochi filing a charge against her employer, North Dakota State Hospital, alleging it discriminated against her. Immigrant and Employer Rights Section of the Department of Justice dismissed her case due to insufficient evidence of discrimination or retaliation and referred the national origin claim to the EEOC, who has jurisdiction on national origin claims involving employers with more than 14 employees.

    Thereafter, Ugochi filed a complaint with OCAHO alleging she was fired because her employer asked for excessive documentation in the I-9 and E-Verify process. The employer responded that it was entitled to sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for her termination - she failed a background check.

    In analyzing the employer’s defenses, OCAHO noted the employer in question is the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency. Due to the employer being a state agency, one must review the 11th Amendment which states, “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court “has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” There are two exceptions to a state’s immunity from suit under the 11th Amendment. The first exception is where Congress has statutorily abrogated such immunity by “clear and unmistakable language.” The second exception exists when the state has expressly waived its immunity.

    OCAHO found sovereign immunity applied to the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency; thus, it enjoyed immunity from these proceedings pursuant to the 11th Amendment. Neither exception to immunity is present in the instant matter. Accordingly, because Ugochi’s complaint is barred, the Motion to Dismiss was granted.

    On a personal note, last week the immigration bar lost a true advocate for immigrants, Yvette Sebelist, my law partner. May she rest in peace.
  3. Another I-9 Form Released by USCIS

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    USCIS released a revised I-9 form on July 17, 2017. Employers will be able to use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through September 17, 2017. On September 18, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N. As shown below, the changes to the I-9 form are not even on the form but rather in the Lists of Acceptable Documents and instructions. With these changes being so minor, one must question the necessity of issuing a new I-9 form.

    Revisions related to the Lists of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:


    • Adding the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9; and
    • Combining all the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) into selection 2 in List C.


    Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions will include:


    • Changing the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices to its new name, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section; and
    • Removing “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”


    USCIS will include these changes in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274). It is unclear when this will occur. I will keep you advised.
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  4. Staffing Company and IER Settle Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law, PLLC

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the OSC, has reached an agreement with Sellari’s Enterprises, Inc., a staffing company in Orlando, Florida. The settlement agreement resolves an investigation into whether Sellari’s violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants. The IER concluded Sellari’s requested that non-U.S. citizens present specific documents to prove their work authorization, such as a Permanent Resident Cards or Employment Authorization Documents, while not requesting specific documents from U.S. citizens. All work-authorized individuals, whether citizens or non-citizens, have the right to choose which valid documentation to present to prove they are authorized to work. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Sellari’s will pay a civil penalty of $120,000 to the United States, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, undergo IER-provided training to HR employees on proper I-9 and E-Verify practices, revise employment policies and practices to be in compliance with the law, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.
  5. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Panda Express

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department announced it reached a settlement agreement with Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (Panda Express), a restaurant chain with over 1,800 locations in the United States. The agreement resolves an investigation into whether Panda Express discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when reverifying their authorization to work.

    The investigation concluded Panda Express unnecessarily required lawful permanent resident workers to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards (green cards) expired, while not making similar requests to U.S. citizen workers when their documents expired. The investigation also revealed that Panda Express routinely required other non-U.S. citizen workers to produce immigration documents to reverify their ongoing work authorization despite evidence they had already provided sufficient documentation. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits such requests for documents when based on an employee’s citizenship status or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Panda Express will pay a civil penalty of $400,000 to the United States, establish a $200,000 back pay fund to compensate workers who lost wages due to the company’s practices, undergo IER-provided training to HR employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, revise employment policies, modify its electronic I-9 system, train HR personnel on the M-274 Handbook for Employers and the USCIS E-Verify manual, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.

    This settlement is the largest to date in calendar year 2017. Employers should be trained by immigration counsel on a regular basis of immigration compliance issues.
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