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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Effects of Temination of DACA on Employers

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Since President Trump’s announcement rescinding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), media focus has been on the 800,000 DACA recipients – as it rightfully should be. However, there is going to be another entity impacted - employers of those 800,000 DACA recipients.

    Not only do employers need to be concerned about the loss of valuable employees, but employers need to be concerned with staying in compliance of immigration laws. It is fundamental immigration law that employees cannot legally work without proof of their identity and work authorization. Thus, when DACA recipients’ Employment Authorization Card (EAD) expire, employers will need to discharge DACA recipients, unless they have found another way to obtain work authorization (which is very unlikely).

    But before employers start discharging employees, one needs to be careful not to do so prematurely. During the period of DACA’s work authorization, even beyond March 5, 2018, when the USCIS will no longer approve DACA renewals, DACA employees can be authorized to legally work. It all depends on the EAD’s expiration date. Although no renewal EAD will be issued after March 5, 2018, this doesn’t mean all DACA recipients are not eligible to work after March 5, 2018.

    As an example, DACA employee Jose has an EAD which expires on March 4, 2018, so he can renew his DACA status and EAD (if the renewal is filed by October 5, 2017). Thus, he will be eligible to work until about March 2020. On the other hand, another employee, Mohammed, has an EAD pursuant to DACA, which expires on March 6, 2018. Unfortunately, March 6, 2018 is the date his employment must terminate. Thus, employers must be observant of the EAD’s expiration date.

    How does an employer even know whether the EAD is through DACA, TPS, or withholding of removal? There is a code on the front of the EAD card. For DACA, the code is C33. This code is different than codes for TPS or withholding - A10, A12 or C19.

    Some employers may ask why can’t I just discharge DACA recipients now. First, they are probably very good employees – as so many of them are proud to be legally working for the first time in their lives. Second, hopefully Congress is going to pass the DREAM Act or some other legislation that will provide for lawful employment for DACA recipients; thus, employers won’t have to face the issue. However, if an employer chose to discharge a DACA recipient based on his DACA status, it is very unlikely that the discharge would be unlawful under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

    Some small employers may be thinking I’m just going to look the other way and not terminate DACA recipients when their work authorization expires. Although I can understand employers not wanting to hurt their DACA employees, employers need to consider their own situation. If an employer continues to employ a worker after his work authorization expires, is not renewed, and no other work authorization is provided, they are subject to “knowingly” employing an undocumented worker. The fines for such a first offense range from $539 to over $4000, with a fine of over $3,000 being the most likely. If you have five DACA employees that you retain without work authorization, you are looking at a fine of $15,000 before Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has even looked at your Form I-9s for substantive violations. So, your heart may tell you to keep DACA recipients without work authorization; but, listen to your head, which is filled with dollar signs for fines and penalties.

    For the answers to many other questions related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. New I-9 Form Must Be Used as of September 18

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    As I previously discussed in my July 19, 2017 blog, the USCIS released a new revised I-9 form on July 17, 2017. It becomes mandatory to use for new hires as of September 18, 2017. In the interim period, July 17 to September 17, use of the new I-9 form was optional. The newest I-9 form has a revision date of 07/17/17 N.

    There are no changes on the I-9 form or the Supplemental page. The minor changes are the addition of Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C Acceptable Documents and minor wording changes in the instructions.

    USCIS has stated it will include these changes in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274). However, to date, the USCIS has not do so. I will keep you advised.

    In order to keep you compliant and answer your questions on completing the I-9 form, using E-Verify, and state immigration laws, I have co-authored a book with Greg Siskind, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, available from Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379
  3. Restaurant Owner Going to Prison for Harboring Undocumented Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    An owner of two restaurants in Ukiah, California, Yaowapha Ritdet, was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison for harboring for profit and corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the internal revenue laws. According to documents filed with the court, Ritdet hired Thai nationals who were illegally present in the United States to work at her restaurants, Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine and Walter Café. Ritdet underpaid these employees, paid them in cash, and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status. Ritdet also did not pay employment taxes on the cash wages. Ritdet filed false individual income tax returns for 2007 through 2011 that underreported the gross receipts, sales, and income she received from her two restaurants.

    In addition to prison, Ritdet was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay approximately $567,755.65 in restitution, including $70,768 to underpaid employees and $496,987 to the Internal Revenue Service.
  4. H-1B Employer Allowed to Deduct Attorney Fees in This Case

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    A Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled that an employer who deducted an H-1B visa holder’s attorney’s fees from the employee’s accrued vacation time did not violate the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor v. Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society.

    Woodman Life hired Oscar Garcia initially under TN non-immigrant visa status. Later, Woodmen Life submitted an H-1B visa to the USCIS, which was approved. After approval, Woodmen Life and Garcia entered into an agreement whereby Garcia would repay certain expenses, including attorney’s fees, related to the H-1B petition. When Garcia’s employment ended, based upon Garcia’s resignation, he received a final paycheck which deducted $5,800 for attorney’s fees from $9,644 which was owed for accrued but unused vacation.

    The DOL Administrator filed suit against Woodmen Life alleging $4,575 was unlawfully deducted from Garcia’s wages. (DOL determined $1,225 for premium processing was included in the $5,800 and was an allowable expense to be paid by Garcia.) The Administrator stated the $4,575 deducted from Garcia’s last paycheck was not allowed because it took his wages below the required wage. Woodmen Life asserted Garcia’s final paycheck did not fall below the required wage because Garcia’s vacation pay was accrued and did not affect the required wage. Under Woodmen Life’s vacation policy, if an employee resigns or is terminated, “accrued but unpaid vacation leave” will be paid in the final paycheck. Furthermore, Woodmen Life stated it treated Garcia the same as other employees who owed money to the company, such as for a tuition repayment plan.

    Under the statute, employers are prohibited from seeking repayment of H-1B attorney’s fees and expenses from the required wage. However, the ALJ found in this case the $4,575 was not deducted from the required wage; rather, it was deducted from Garcia’s benefits. The ALJ found the statute allowed this type of deduction, especially where it was consistent with Woodmen Life’s policy of repayment for certain expenses from accrued but unused vacation time.
  5. Pizzerias, LLC Pays $140,000 to Settle Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has reached a settlement agreement with Pizzerias, LLC, a pizza restaurant franchisee with 31 locations in Miami, Florida, where Pizzerias will pay a $140,000 civil penalty. The agreement resolves the IER’s investigation into whether Pizzerias violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants when checking their work authorization documents.

    The investigation concluded Pizzerias routinely requested that lawful permanent residents produce a specific document – a Permanent Resident Card (green card) – to prove their work authorization, while not requesting a specific document from U.S. citizens. This is referred to as document abuse. Lawful permanent residents may choose acceptable documents other than a Permanent Resident Card to prove they are authorized to work. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Pizzerias must pay a civil penalty of $140,000 to the United States, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.

    The first two settlements by IER in Trump administration seem to reflect that the IER will continue to aggressively pursue employers that violated the INA.
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