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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Be Prepared for a Notice of Inspection from ICE, They May be at Your Door

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    As Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branches out from their concentration of ICE audits of California employers to the heartland of the United States, such as Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas, employers need to be ready to respond to ICE’s delivery of a Notice of Inspection/subpoena.

    One of the best ways to prepare for an I-9 inspection by ICE is to hire an immigration attorney, who is experienced in worksite enforcement and immigration compliance issues. Even if you currently have an immigration attorney for employment-based visas, there is a good chance that he or she does not handle worksite enforcement, such as ICE inspections. Therefore, if you have an immigration attorney, reach out to him or her and inquire as to whether they are experienced in worksite enforcement matters. If so, great but if not, ask him or her to refer to an experienced immigration compliance/worksite enforcement attorney. If you don’t have an immigration attorney, ask your corporate counsel for assistance in finding one. You don’t want to be doing this after ICE shows up at your facility.

    The next step is for your immigration compliance attorney to conduct or supervise an internal I-9 audit. Through this audit, numerous errors will be found, most of which can be corrected so that if ICE inspects your I-9 forms, the errors will not be considered a substantive error, for which you can be penalized for. And don’t kid yourself, your I-9 forms have lots of errors. In all my years of practice, I don’t recall any employer’s I-9 forms as impeccable although on more than one occasion an employer has stated such before the I-9 audit began.

    Also, don’t be fooled by the fact that all your employees are U.S. citizens. You can still have substantive and technical I-9 errors. Another common comment from employers is I’m in great shape as we use E-Verify. Although E-Verify is excellent in establishing who is authorized to work, it cannot locate substantive or technical errors on the I-9 forms. One proven method to reduce substantive or technical errors on the I-9 forms is using electronic I-9 systems as well as using the “smart” I-9 form, which was introduced by the USCIS in 2016.

    The reason preparedness is so important is because of the short time period ICE gives employers to respond and supply the subpoenaed I-9 forms. The Notice of Inspection/subpoena allows the company just three days to turn over their I-9 forms, along with a laundry list of other documents such as payroll information, tax statements and assorted corporate documents. Usually, your counsel will be able to get an extension of these three days but rarely will ICE extend the date by more than a week. However, even this timeframe is not nearly enough time for a company that was not already prepared for it, especially if the company has a lot of employees or former employees. ICE can and does subpoena I-9 forms of former employees. One helpful hint on former employees’ I-9 forms is they may be purged at certain times but not after the subpoena is delivered.

    Getting an attorney involved as soon as an ICE inspection is launched can help an employer in several ways. As stated above, an attorney may help the company negotiate a few days’ extension in responding to the subpoena. And/or the attorney may be able to get a reduction in the list of requested documents. Most importantly, an attorney can help the employer prepare to respond in a methodical and thoughtful way.

    Being prepared for a Notice of Inspection/subpoena requires a company to have proper procedures in place upon hiring. The best way to have these procedures in place is with an Immigration Compliance Policy. Unless you have retained an immigration compliance/worksite enforcement attorney, it is extremely unlikely you have such a policy. One paragraph in your employee handbook does not equal an Immigration Compliance Policy. Under such a policy, every employee responsible for completing I-9 records on behalf of the company should be trained to do so. To many people, it is hard to tell the difference between a green card and a work authorization document issued to a recipient of DACA or TPS. Yet, one represents permanent work authorization that should never be reverified, and the other requires the employer to reverify the I-9 form upon the document’s expiration.
  2. ICE Announces its Three-prong Approach to Worksite Enforcement

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    On the heels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “silent raids” on almost 100 7-Eleven convenience stores and the resolution of a worksite enforcement case against Asplundh Tree Experts Co., which paid a record $95 million in fines and forfeitures, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a three-prong approach to conduct worksite enforcement. In doing so, ICE stated this ensures employees are legally authorized to work in the United States for employers, from small start-up operations to the largest corporations.

    This strategy involves a three-prong approach to worksite enforcement: immigration compliance, through Form I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment; enforcement, through the arrest of employers, knowingly employing undocumented workers, and the arrest of unauthorized workers for violation of laws associated with working without authorization; and outreach, through the IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.

    “Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) prioritizes violators who abuse and exploit their workers, aid in the smuggling or trafficking of their alien workforce into the United States, create false identity documents or facilitate document fraud, or create an entire business model using an unauthorized workforce,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek Benner. “Further priority is given to looking closely at those companies or industries that are deemed national security or critical infrastructure interests.” ICE also stated an effective worksite enforcement strategy must address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers themselves.

    ICE’s statement highlighted the recent resolution of a case against Asplundh Tree Experts Co., one of the largest privately-held companies in the United States. This case revealed a scheme to unlawfully employ undocumented workers, in which the highest levels of Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States. The company pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a monetary forfeiture judgment in the amount of $80 million – the largest judgment ever handed down in a worksite enforcement investigation. They are also required to abide by an administrative compliance agreement. Pursuant to a separate civil settlement agreement, Asplundh will pay an additional $15 million to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with immigration law, bringing the total cost of this illegal scheme to $95 million.

    To learn more about employer immigration compliance and steps you can take to prevent I-9 violations and hiring undocumented workers, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  3. ICE Planning Worksite Enforcement Operation against National Food Service Chain

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning to conduct a major worksite enforcement operation against an unknown national food service chain in the next few weeks, according to an internal ICE document reviewed by Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast.

    It is unknown whether this action will be a raid or other type of ICE operation. If it is a raid, it will be a sign that the Trump Administration is returning to raids on employers. The last major raid occurred at Howard Industries in Laurel, Mississippi in August 2008. After the Laurel raid at the end of President George W. Bush’s term, ICE stopped conducting raids, presumably due to the high cost and the difficulty in conducting a surprise raid.

    According to an anonymous ICE official (he was not permitted to discuss impending operations on the record) that The Daily Beast spoke to, the current plan is focused on employers across the nation, who are “harboring illegal aliens,” by illegally paying below the minimum wage.

    ICE’s planned action is not unexpected given the Trump Administration’s increased enforcement of other aspects of immigration enforcement. Recently, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative unit of ICE, to increase "by four to five times" worksite enforcement actions in 2018. Homan also stated, "We've already increased the number of inspections in worksite operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year."

    Additionally, in marked contrast to previous administrations’ worksite enforcement operations, Homan said "We're going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers" as “that is our job.” Furthermore, Homan stated ICE is going to strongly prosecute employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrant workers, in addition to deporting their undocumented workers. The anonymous ICE official said undocumented workers who cooperate with the agency could potentially be eligible for U visas, which provides non-immigrant visas to remain in the United States to victims of crimes, who cooperate in an investigation and testify at a trial, if necessary, against their employers.

    Even if this major raid occurs, is this just as a show of force on this occasion for the sake of publicity or a full swing back to numerous ICE raids on employers? Only time will tell.

    For a review of ICE’s criminal actions against employers as well as other employer immigration compliance issues, 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.
  4. ICE Increasing its ICE Inspections by 4 to 5 times Current Level

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on October 17, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative unit of ICE which conducts I-9 Inspections/Audits, to increase "by four to five times" worksite enforcement actions in 2018.

    Homan also stated, "We've already increased the number of inspections in worksite operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year." Homan said HSI’s goal is to remove the "magnet" drawing people to enter the US illegally.

    Homan’s statement was not unexpected given the Trump Administration’s increased enforcement of other aspects of immigration enforcement. Although earlier in 2017, ICE stated it had not increased the number of I-9 Inspections/Audits from the last year of the Obama Administration, it was just a matter of time before increases occurred. I have been warning employers and employer associations of the strong likelihood of increased I-9 Inspections/Audits.

    When worksite enforcement actions (I-9 Inspections/Audits) increase by four to five times, we could see over 6,500 I-9 Inspections/Audits per fiscal year. This would be more than double the number that the Obama Administration conducted in any year.

    Additionally, in marked contrast to earlier I-9 Inspections/Audits, Homan said "We're going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers" as “that is our job.” Furthermore, Homan stated ICE is going to strongly prosecute employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrant workers, in addition to deporting their undocumented workers.

    Over the past 10 years, when ICE has found undocumented workers at an employer’s worksites through analysis of employer’s I-9 forms, it would issue a Notice of Suspect Documents to the employer. It then instructed the employer to notify these workers and give them the opportunity to provide “newer and better documents” to prove their work authorization. If workers did not do so, ICE instructed employers to terminate those employees or face penalties for knowingly employing undocumented workers. However, ICE never went to the worksites to detain those workers who did not have valid work authorization. Interestingly, many undocumented workers thought ICE would detain them so they quit when their employer stated ICE said their documents did not establish work authorization.

    This increased step of detaining undocumented workers at an employer’s worksites had been anticipated due to the fact it is an easy method to vastly increase individuals for deportation. It will be interesting to see at what point ICE raids the employer to detain workers on the Notice of Suspect Documents – at the time of its issuance or after the employees have attempted to provide new documentation.

    For a review of ICE Inspections and how to conduct an internal I-9 audit in advance of an ICE inspection as well as other employer immigration compliance issues, 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. ICE’s Enforcement Statistics Show Increases in Fines

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser PC

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    The Congressional Research Service recently issued a report reviewing performance measures of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As you can see below, before FY 2008, when ICE introduced its Culture of Compliance - emphasizing inspections/audits of employers’ I-9 forms, ICE assessed few, if any, fines against employers.

    Final Orders and Civil Fines – FY 2006-2014


    Fiscal Year Final Orders Issued Civil Fines Imposed

    2006 0 $0
    2007 2 $26,560
    2008 18 $675,209
    2009 52 $1,033,291
    2010 237 $6,956,026
    2011 385 $10,463,988
    2012 495 $12,475,575
    2013 637 $15,808,365
    2014 642 $16,275,821

    To date in FY 2015, ICE is on pace to match the approximately $16 million in civil fines imposed in FY 2014.

    Criminal Fines and Forfeitures, Worksite Enforcement Investigations, FY2006-2014

    Fiscal Year Criminal Fines and Forfeitures Imposed

    2006 $233,044
    2007 $31,426,443
    2008 $21,978,918
    2009 $31,244,945
    2010 $36,611,320
    2011 $7,189,631
    2012 $14,205,865
    2013 $2,245,366
    2014 $35,131,058

    As you can see below, criminal indictments and convictions have varied over the past 10 years with the high point being FY 2008.

    Criminal Indictments and Convictions, Worksite Enforcement - FY 2006-2014

    Fiscal Year Indictments Convictions

    2006 411 340
    2007 750 561
    2008 900 908
    2009 292 287
    2010 309 282
    2011 347 364
    2012 318 292
    2013 296 319
    2014 327 312

    I expect the criminal indictments will be increasing in FY 2015 due to ICE’s renewed emphasis on seeking criminal indictments, fines, and forfeitures.

    Updated 07-22-2015 at 09:19 AM by BBuchanan (Formatting)

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