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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. 9th Court of Appeals Agrees with OCAHO Decision

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    In a rare Court of Appeals decision involving Form I-9 penalties, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (covers California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Hawaii) substantially agreed with a decision by the Office of Chief Administration Hearing Officer (OCAHO). See DLS Precision Fab LLC v. ICE (9th Cir. August 2017).

    In the underlying decision, OCAHO found DLS to have committed 504 violations related to their I-9 forms and assessed a penalty of $305,050. Of the 504 violations, 489 concerned substantive or paperwork violations while 15 concerned employees who DLS knowingly employed without work authorization. DLS was able to reduce the penalties to $305,050 from $495,250, which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sought.

    On appeal to the 9th Circuit, DLS prevailed on one issue, thereby reducing the violations from 504 to 503. In the appeal, DLS argued its paperwork or substantive violations should be viewed under the “good faith defense” because it “made a good faith effort to comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by hiring a HR director, who exhibited bad faith by neglecting his duty to keep DLS compliant.” The Ninth Circuit was not persuaded by DLS’s argument because the HR director was acting as DLS’s agent; thus, “his failure to perform his responsibility may properly be imputed to DLS.” Moreover, DLS’s argument essentially requests the Ninth Circuit to rewrite the statute, something that is not with the court’s authority.

    The Court also affirmed OCAHO’s rejection of DLS’s statute of limitations defense. Concerning the numerous paperwork violations, the Court found such a violation occurs “until it is corrected, or until the employer no longer is required to retain the I-9 form.” There is a five-year statute of limitations, which applies the above test. In applying this test, the Ninth Circuit found one violation was beyond the five-year statute of limitations.

    Finally, DLS asserted OCAHO failed to take into account its inability to pay defense. The Court agreed with DLS but pointed out OCAHO was not required to consider an inability to pay; thus, there was no error.

    This court’s decision reinforces my mantra in previous articles – Form I-9 errors can have costly consequences; thus, all employers should conduct internal I-9 audits under the supervision of counsel who is well-versed in immigration compliance. For more information on how companies can protect themselves, you may want to read by new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, available from Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/I-9-E-Verify-...dp/0997083379/.
  2. I-9 Violations Cannot be Alleged by a Complainant in Discrimination Complaint

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    In Sapre v. Dave S.B. Hoon – John Wayne Cancer Institute, 12 OCAHO no. 1305 (August 2017), an employee alleged the Respondent discriminated against her because of her citizenship status and national origin, retaliated against her, and committed document abuse, thereby violating the antidiscrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1324b (2012). In a procedural decision, OCAHO denied a Motion for Default Judgment.

    In so ruling, OCAHO denied Complainant’s request that the ALJ inquire into the employer’s alleged Form I-9 errors. OCAHO reiterated that the employer sanctions statute, 8 U.S.C. § 1324a, and accompanying regulations, “do not authorize a private individual to file a complaint directly with an Administrative Law Judge alleging violations in completion of the Form I-9, which is unlawful pursuant to § 1324a(a)(1)(B)” (quoting de Araujo v. Joan Smith Enters., Inc., 10 OCAHO no. 1187 (2013).
  3. 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

  4. 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.
  5. Missing Deadline for Providing I-9s to ICE is Costly

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    OCAHO’s recent decision in U.S. v. Alpine Staffing, Inc., 12 OCAHO no. 1303 (May 2017), demonstrates how untimely presentation of I-9 forms can be costly to an employer.

    Alpine Staffing is a small staffing company in Minnesota. It received a Notice of Inspection (NOI) on August 23, 2013 informing the company that it needed to present all of its I-9 forms for current employees and former employees for the past 2 years by August 29, 2013. On that date, Alpine Staffing delivered many I-9 forms to ICE. The following day Alpine Staffing discovered 271 additional I-9 forms. It immediately delivered the additional I-9 forms to ICE. On October 1, 2013, the company discovered another 39 Forms I-9 and thereafter delivered those to ICE.

    After a review of the I-9 forms, ICE issued a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF) and then a Complaint which alleged in Court I – failure to timely present or prepare 345 Forms I-9 and Court II – company failed to ensure 132 employees properly completed Section 1 of the I-9 form and/or the company failed to properly complete sections 2 or 3 of the I-9 forms. ICE sought $367,000 in penalties.

    Alpine Staffing’s principal defense was it was unaware of a specific deadline for presentation of I-9 forms to ICE. However, this defense was belied by the fact that they presented numerous I-9 forms on August 29, 2013, the date that ICE stated the I-9 forms were due. Thus, OCAHO found all I-9 forms delivered after August 29, 2013 were untimely presented.

    OCAHO affirmed ICE’s assessment of $770 per I-9 form for the 34 instances of failure to prepare an I-9 form for those employees. However, OCAHO gave Alpine Staffing a break on the untimely presented I-9 forms. For those presented a day late, OCAHO set a penalty of $500 each, rather than $770. For those I-9 forms delivered at a later date, OCAHO set a penalty of $600 each, rather than $770. Overall, the penalty assessed for the failure to prepare or untimely present I-9 forms was set at $185,000. ICE had sought $256,000. Concerning the 130 Court II violations, OCHAO reduced the penalty from $770 to $700 per I-9 violation. Overall, OCAHO assessed penalties of $276,000. Thus, Alpine Staffing received a reduction of about 25% in penalties.

    This decision shows the importance of locating and providing all I-9 forms covered by the NOI by the deadline. The company’s error appears to be caused by the fact that their I-9 forms were not kept in one location. It is certainly best to keep all a company’s I-9 forms in one location at the company’s facility.

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