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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Employers Beware: ICE is Targeting Companies Who Hire Undocumented Workers

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    In mid-December, the federal government, through the U.S. Attorney’s office in Memphis and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), indicted 20 undocumented workers for using fake identification to get their jobs. These workers were employed at Expeditors International, a Memphis logistics company, and hired through a staffing agency, Provide Staffing Services.

    Robert Hammer, assistant special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a branch of ICE, stated the federal government is aggressively pursuing this case because the undocumented workers had access to a sensitive air cargo area at Memphis International Airport that required special clearance. “It is imperative for the safety and security of our airports, seaports and railyards that all individuals requiring this type of special vetting present valid and genuine identification documents in the hiring process,” he said.

    The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, Michael Dunavant, stated ICE plans to increase its focus on this type of criminal investigation in Tennessee throughout 2018. "Our enforcement strategy is going to be dual-pronged, focusing on both employers and the employees. According to the U.S. Attorney, no one with the companies that hired the workers has been indicted but the investigation is ongoing.

    If it is determined that the staffing company and/or Expeditors International had knowledge, actual or constructive, that the workers’ identification documents used in the I-9 work authorization process were fake, the companies and management would be subject to criminal prosecution by the federal government. It appears the federal government is taking this very seriously due to the workers’ access to a sensitive air cargo area that required special clearance.

    I expect ICE to continue to crackdown on employers’ use of undocumented workers in 2018. If you want a better understanding of the possible criminal and civil sanctions against employers within immigration compliance, I recommend you read my book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. ICE’s Inspection Costs Bakery 800 Employees in its Workforce

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    As I have discussing in this blog, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is ramping up it worksite enforcement activities. Recently, after ICE issued a Notice of Inspection (NOI) and Notice of Suspect Documents to an unnamed staffing company for Cloverhill Bakery of Chicago, Illinois, approximately 800 employees were terminated or quit due to being undocumented workers.

    Cloverhill Bakery, a part of the Swiss-based international company, Aryzta AG, lost about 35% of its workforce due to the staffing company’s employees being undocumented. As one can imagine, losing 35% of your workforce has made it difficult to meet production of products for its customers, fast-food chains and supermarkets.

    Although press reports referred to ICE’s action as a raid, it was not such; rather it was an inspection of the staffing company’s employees’ I-9 forms. The inspection of the I-9 forms is accomplished by the delivery of a NOI/subpoena by ICE agents.

    The NOI was issued earlier in 2017 and caused one of the largest groups of employees to lose their jobs due to lack of work authorization in 2017. Since the NOI occurred earlier this year, ICE did not take any actions to detain the 800 undocumented workers. Recently, ICE announced that it planned to detain undocumented workers found at employers’ facilities.

    If you are worried that your company is going to be the next ICE target, I recommend you get prepared now. The best way is to have an immigration attorney, well-versed in I-9 forms and worksite enforcement, conduct an internal I-9 audit. Alternatively, if you want to get a better understanding of immigration compliance for employers, I recommend you read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, 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. How to Get Ready for an ICE Audit? (part 2)

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    As previously stated, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced an increase of I-9 Inspections/Audits "by four to five times." What can employers do to decrease their vulnerability to significant penalties if one is audited? There are two things to do which go hand in hand – implement an immigration compliance policy and conduct an internal I-9 audit. On November 13, 2017, I discussed implementing an immigration compliance policy This blog will focus on conducting an internal I-9 audit.

    An internal I-9 audit (also called a self-audit) is the best prevention tool to avoid costly penalties if ICE conducts an inspection of your I-9 forms pursuant to a Notice of Inspection/subpoena. An internal I-9 audit is not required by law but is highly recommended. However, unless such an audit is conducted by, or under the close supervision of, an immigration compliance attorney, an employer may do more damage than good. A classic example of doing more damage is finding errors on the I-9 forms, completing new I-9 forms, and destroying the existing I-9 forms.

    An employer should conduct internal I-9 audits yearly or less frequently, depending on size of company and number of employees hired each year. An employer may choose to audit the I-9 forms of all current employees, all current employees and former employees for the last two years, or a sample of I-9 forms selected based on neutral and non-discriminatory criteria. If a subset of I-9 forms is audited, the employer should consider carefully how it chooses I-9 forms to be audited to avoid discriminatory or retaliatory audits. Thus, one should not audit only those employees with permanent resident cards or foreign-sounding last names.

    If errors are found on I-9 forms, they should be corrected by the employee for Section 1 errors and the employer for Sections 2 and 3 errors. For corrections in Section 2, it should be the employer’s representative who originally reviewed documents and signed the certification. If that person is no longer employed, it is usually best to complete a new I-9 form. However, if it is a minor error, such as failure to include an expiration date in List A or List B where the document is attached to the I-9 form or the employer’s address is missing, another HR representative can make the correction.

    If an I-9 form is missing data, such as the title of a document or expiration date, one may add that information in a different color pen, initial, and date the correction. If information is put in the wrong list, i.e., Social Security card in List B and driver’s license in List C, draw arrow in different color pen to correct list, and initial, and date the correction.

    To correct multiple errors on an I-9 form, a new I-9 form may be completed and attached to the old form. Or if entire sections of the I-9 form were left blank, one may complete just that section and attach it to the old I-9 form. In making corrections or attaching a new I-9 form, always include a note concerning the reason changes were made to the existing I-9 form or a new I-9 form was completed. It is sufficient to state the errors were located in an internal I-9 audit.

    Other helpful ideas to implement in an internal I-9 audit are:
    1. Establish a re-verification tickler system to ensure I-9 forms are checked in a timely manner;
    2. Establish a backup system to ensure timely compliance with I-9 form rules when a human resource professional is out of the office;
    3. Segregate I-9 forms from other personnel records;
    4. Consider using an electronic Form I-9 product to automate the collection of information, to reduce errors, speed up the production of information in the case of a government audit, and ensure timely re-verification of I-9 forms.

    For more information on how to conduct an internal I-9 audit in advance of an ICE inspection, 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. How to Get Ready for ICE Audit? (part 1)

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    As I stated in my blog entry on October 19, 2017, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced an increase of I-9 Inspections/Audits "by four to five times." What can employers do to decrease their vulnerability to significant penalties if one is audited? There are two things to do which go hand in hand – implement an immigration compliance policy and conduct an internal I-9 audit. This blog will focus on drafting and implementing an immigration compliance policy. Part 2 will focus on conducting an internal I-9 audit.

    As an immigration attorney who represents lots of companies in immigration compliance matters, one of the first questions I ask a new client is whether they have a written immigration compliance policy. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the companies say no or point to one paragraph in their employee manual.

    Why should a company have an immigration compliance policy? There are many reasons but one of the most important is to identify the person in charge of immigration compliance. It’s amazing how often that simple question is met with uncertainty. As we all know, if someone does not take ownership over a policy that policy will flounder.

    Here are other items that should be in an immigration compliance policy:
    1. Determine whether copies of documents should be retained;
    2. Determine whether the company should use E-Verify;
    3. Determine if the company is required by state or federal law to use E-Verify or FAR E-Verify;
    4. Zero tolerance policy for employment of individuals who cannot comply with work authorization rules;
    5. Timing and procedures for regular internal I-9 audits to be conducted;
    6. Rules on which management has access to I-9 records;
    7. How often is training required for employer representatives, who are completing I-9 forms;
    8. Define the required retention policy of I-9 forms – 1 year from employee’s termination or 3 years from original hire, whichever is longer;
    9. Rules for working with outside contractors;
    10. Re-verification procedures for employees with Employment Authorization documents;
    11. Set protocols for interacting with government officials if ICE or another federal agency shows up at worksite; and
    12. Policy on no discrimination of applicants/employees based on their lawful immigration status – citizenship, permanent resident, etc. or national origin.

    For more information on implementing an immigration compliance policy and how to conduct an internal I-9 audit in advance of an ICE inspection, 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.
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