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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. How does ICE Calculate Fines in an I-9 Inspection

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


    As Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts more and more I-9 inspections (the ICE director stated they would be increasing by 400 to 500%), employers need to know how ICE calculates any fines assessed against employers. AILA’s I-9 Verification Committee, through Rick Gump and Eileen Momblanco, recently drafted a fine Practice Pointer, which I encourage AILA members to read. For non-AILA members, this article will discuss the same concepts.

    It begins for an employer when ICE serves a Notice of Inspection (NOI)/subpoena to review the employer’s I-9 forms as well as many other HR-related records. The NOI gives the employer three business days to provide the subpoenaed documents. The ability to receive an extension of time to provide the I-9 forms and other documents seems to vary with what ICE office you are dealing. I have been successful in receiving extensions in almost all NOIs, but I never ask for more than one week and usually only five days. After the ICE auditor reviews the I-9 forms, the employer will receive a series of notices – Notice of Suspect Documents and Notice of Technical and Procedural Failures are the most common notices.

    If substantive paperwork, hiring, or continuing to employ (H/CTE) violations are found, ICE normally issues a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF), although if the errors are less than 10%, ICE usually only issues a Warning Notice without a penalty. The fine/penalty amount in the NIF is determined by ICE attorneys and special agents in charge. Fines can be challenged by requesting review by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) within 30 days of receipt of the NIF. If litigated, the ALJ can adjust the fine amount.

    In November 2008, ICE issued a Memorandum, “Revised Administrative Fine Policy Procedures”, which contained a set of matrixes and required ICE to follow specific procedures for calculating paperwork and H/CTE fines. The Policy Procedures state the following to determine the level of fine within each matrix:


    • Use the number of violations of each type (paperwork or H/CTE) as the numerator and the number of total employees as the denominator; and
    • The percentage calculated above would be used to determine the percentage box in the fine matrix to start, and then fines could be adjusted up or down five percent for each of the five factors - business size, good faith, seriousness, employment of unauthorized aliens, and prior history with ICE/INS.


    However, ALJs can consider any factors it deems necessary to calculate an appropriate fine based on the case at hand. Cases with both paperwork and H/CTE violations sometimes produce higher fines for a greater number of paperwork violations compared to fines for a fewer number of H/CTE violations.

    To increase the level of penalties, ICE has begun to create a higher level of fine on each matrix by adding the number of paperwork violations to the number of H/CTE violations as the numerator, which in some cases dramatically increases the level of the fine in each matrix. Here are two examples:


    • If you have 100 employees with 10 substantive paperwork violations and 20 H/CTE violations, you add 10 + 20 = 30 to calculate 30% violations for each matrix. This would lead to a fine of $60,270 using the 2017 matrixes.
    • If you have 100 employees with 10 substantive paperwork violations and 20 H/CTE violations, you add 10/100 = 10% for paperwork and 20/100 = 20% for H/CTE violations for each matrix. This would lead to a fine of $40,560 without any aggravating or mitigating factors applied.


    In other words, instead of taking the number of paperwork violations and dividing them by the
    number of employees, and then calculating the H/CTE violations the same way, ICE adds the
    number of paperwork violations to the number of H/CTE violations when calculating the
    violation percentage from each matrix. This is resulting in a higher fine based on the matrix
    percentage of violations for each of the paperwork and H/CTE violations.

    ICE has defended this calculation method by pointing to language in the 2008 fine policy procedures, “The recommended base fine amount is determined by dividing the number of ‘knowing hire,’ ‘continuing to employ,’ and substantive verification violations by the total number of Forms I-9 presented for inspection to determine a violation percentage.”

    However, as the Practice Pointer states:
    On the next two pages, ICE instructs agents to “divide the number of ‘knowing hire’ and ‘continuing to employ’ violations by the number of employees for whom a Form I-9 should have been prepared to obtain a violation percentage” and to “divide the number of substantive violations by the number of employees for whom a Form I-9 should have been prepared to obtain a violation percentage.” Each instruction is paired with a separate fine matrix and no other ICE issued documentation instructs agents or attorneys to add the violations together. ICE’s I-9 inspection webpage also makes no mention of the double-dipping method of fine calculation.

    In evaluating NIFs, attorneys for employers should ask these questions:
    1. Are the fines calculated within the confines of the statute as updated by DOJ?
    2. What baseline and method did ICE use to calculate the fine in the instant case?
    3. What factors were used to aggravate or reduce the level of the fine?
    4. Were the factors appropriately used?
    5. Did ICE apply the 5% enhancement for employment of unauthorized aliens to only those violations as opposed to across the board?
    6. Did the NIF miscalculate the fines by double-counting violations? And
    7. Did ICE make other errors in its calculations?

    After evaluating these issues and trying to negotiate a settlement, one must assess the propriety of settling with ICE versus challenging the fine with an OCAHO ALJ.

    If you want to know more information on I-9 penalties/fines, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. USCIS Launches New Website E-Verify

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    USCIS has launched a new website, E-Verify.gov. USCIS describes it as the authoritative source for information on electronic employment eligibility verification. E-Verify.gov is for employers, employees and the general public.

    The website provides information about E-Verify and Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, including employee rights and employer responsibilities in the employment verification process. E-Verify.gov allows employers to enroll in E-Verify directly and permits current users to access their accounts. Individuals with myE-Verify accounts can also access their accounts through E-Verify.gov.

    “For the past decade, E-Verify has been the cornerstone of our continued commitment to helping employers maintain a legal workforce,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “E-Verify.gov now allows users to better understand and navigate through the employment verification process.”

    Employers can access E-Verify anytime, anywhere directly from a web browser. Nearly all employees are confirmed as work-authorized instantly or within 24 hours. The system has nearly 800,000 enrolled employers, which is still a small percentage of total employers in the United States.

    If you want to know more information on E-Verify, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  3. Pre-Population: Ever-Changing Positions from Immigration-Related Agencies

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    The immigration-related agencies’ positions on the pre-population of data in Section 1 of the I-9 form is everchanging. At about the time of our publication of the book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, Bruce Buchanan and Greg Siskind, 2d ed. (2017), the USCIS altered its position again.

    The USCIS added the following in I-9 Central, Section 1, Questions & Answers:

    Question: Can Section 1 of Form I-9 be auto-populated by an electronic system that collects information during the on-boarding process for a new hire if the employee is required to verify that the information is correct and can make corrections or add information if necessary?

    Answer: DHS regulations require that the employee completes Section 1 of Form I-9. Employers can offer employees electronic tools to facilitate the Section 1 completion process, as long as this regulatory requirement and the regulatory requirements for the electronic generation of Form I-9 continue to be met.

    This answer is contrary to the position that USCIS articulated in the E-Verify newsletter, November 2016, which the book quoted as follows:

    USCIS stated Section 1 of Form I-9 could not be pre-populated. Pre-population involves the electronic inclusion of data about the employee in Section 1 by Form I-9 software programs without the employee having to write the information in Section 1.

    See Chapter 2, Question 2.12, p. 23-24.

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and OSC (now renamed the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the U.S. Department of Justice) have not changed their positions which were discussed on p. 24 of The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook. Thus, ICE holds no official position on the pre-population of Section 1 by electronic Form I-9 software programs. This is a change in past policy in which ICE stated pre-population could not be done by employers. On the other hand, in August 2013, the OSC stated that it discouraged the practice of pre-population because “it increases the likelihood of including inaccurate or outdated information.”

    I invite anybody who has the book - The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379, to alert me of any substantive changes that have been made in employer immigration compliance since the publication of the book. As we know, immigration law is everchanging and I want to keep the book up to date. I would like to thank Dave Fowler of Worksite Compliance Services for pointing out the change related to pre-population.
  4. When does Employer Need to Re-Verify Employee’s I-9 form?

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    From my observations of conducting numerous internal I-9 audits and representing employers in ICE I-9 inspections, I have noticed some employers do not comprehend when to reverify an employee. This article will try to simplify the process.

    If an employee is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, he is likely working based on a status with a defined end date. For these employees, the employer must note the expiration date of their document(s) on the I-9 form, pull the employee’s I-9 form before its expiration date, and re-verify that the employee’s status has been extended. Employers should establish a reliable tickler system to prompt reverification. Aside from complying with the re-verification rule, this system will also ensure that an employer that needs to extend a work visa for an employee will not forget to take care of this critical task.

    Employers may not specify which documents an employee may present either at the time of hire or at the time of re-verification. An employee may have become a lawful permanent resident or otherwise received employment-authorized status allowing the employee to obtain a Social Security card, as discussed below, absent the sponsorship of the employer, so the employer should not assume the employee is unauthorized. An employee may present a Social Security card to show employment authorization at re-verification if the Social Security card is not restricted with a statement such as “not valid for employment,” “valid for work only with DHS authorization” or “valid for work only with INS authorization.” This type of Social Security card must be accompanied by an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to be valid.

    Returning employees often do not need to complete a new I-9 form, but if that is not done, the employer needs to re-verify the employee’s work authorization in Section 3 of the I-9 form, if the formerly listed work authorization has expired. If a new version of the I-9 form has come out since the last time the I-9 form was completed, the employer may complete a new form or use Section 3 of the existing completed I-9 form. And if the form has been completed in Section 3 from a previous re-verification, the employer should complete Section 3 of a new I-9 form. Plus, the employer should put the employee’s name in Section 1 and retain the new form with the original.

    One final reminder - green cards, driver’s licenses, and passports with expiration dates do not need to be re-verified.

    For more information on reverification and many other issues related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  5. I-9 and E-Verify Handbook – Book Review

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    As many of you know, Greg Siskind and I have published a book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook (2nd edition). If you would like to know more about the book, SHRM has just published a positive book review, where they discuss various aspects of the book. You may view the review at: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/h...d-everify.aspx

    If you would like to purchase the book, it is available at Amazon -http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
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