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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Difference Between ICE Raid and ICE Audit

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    In 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids have returned to workplaces after being dormant for the past 10 years. ICE audits/inspections have been regularly taking place for the past 10 years though they are increasing at an accelerated rate in 2017-2018 under the Trump Administration. So, what’s the difference between an ICE raid (also called a targeted enforcement operation) and an ICE audit/inspection:

    An ICE raid is like it sounds – ICE, or actually a part of ICE called Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), shows up at the employer’s premises without warning – hoping to catch employers and employees off guard. Raids often occur after an ongoing investigation shows a number of undocumented workers are employed there, often with the knowledge and/or assistance of the employer. HSI may receive tips of this unlawful activity by the employer.

    When ICE arrives at the employer’s premises, its agents surround the building and usually have aerial presence. Then ICE agents enter the business with a criminal search warrant. The search warrant will have a detailed description of what and where agents are going to search and what they may seize. This list may include: payroll; I-9 forms and any supporting documents; bank records; Social Security Administration documents; IRS Form 940 and 940 employment tax documents; and other financial or employee records. The employer should immediately contact its immigration legal counsel.

    Employers are not required to answer ICE questions during a worksite raid. If, during a worksite raid, ICE discovers unauthorized workers at the site, they may arrest and detain them. At the end of a raid, ICE agents should leave an inventory of the property they seized and a list of employees arrested.

    A recent example of an ICE raid and how it occurred is the April 2018 raid at Southeastern Provision, a meat-processing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee. The investigation began when the employer’s bank inquired of company officials why it was making very large cash withdrawals every week. The employer official said it was for payroll and its workforce was Hispanic. After the bank provided this information, the IRS subpoenaed the company’s bank records, which confirmed these large cash withdrawals. Later, a confidential informant was sent to Southeastern Provisions and hired without filling out an I-9 form. Based upon this evidence and other evidence gathered in the investigation, HSI and the IRS raided the employer’s facility and detained about 100 employees.

    In ICE audit is friendlier but can lead to damaging results. In this situation, HSI serves a Notice of Inspection (NOI)/subpoena on the employer, requesting all I-9 forms with supporting documentation as well as many other documents. Normally, the visit to the employer’s premises is unannounced, like an ICE raid. But there the similarities cease. Usually two agents will serve the NOI/subpoena on the employer and demand production of records within three business days or a little longer, such as within seven business days. HIS agent will ask if the employer wishes to waive the three days. Under no circumstances should an employer waive the three days. Upon receiving an NOI, the employer should contact its immigration legal counsel or hire one if the employer does not have one.

    Other records that will normally be subpoenaed include: copy of payroll, list of current employees, list of former employees for past one to three years; Social Security Administration documents; IRS Form 940 and 940 employment tax documents; business licenses; and list of companies who were contracted work.

    The ICE agents have the right to receive and inspect the originals of the I-9 forms. The employer should copy all documents turned over to ICE. Once the employer provides the documents, an ICE auditor inspects the I-9 forms to determine whether they comply with the law. The ICE auditor is checking for substantive violations, such as incomplete or missing forms, and technical violations, which an employer will be given 10 days to remedy.

    It is clear that employer raids and ICE audits will be frequent tools of ICE. Every employer should be vigilant in their immigration compliance. I would advise employers to meet with their immigration counsel, or obtain immigration counsel, to conduct an internal I-9 audit and draft or review an immigration compliance policy.

    If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, 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. ICE Raids Continue with Raids at Fresh Mark in Ohio

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC



    In the third raid in the past two and a half months and the largest to date, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on June 19, 2018, raided Fresh Mark, a large meat supplier. As many as 100 agents from ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), descended upon Fresh Mark’s four facilities in Salem, Massillon and Canton, Ohio. This was the largest ICE raid in over 10 years.

    Although ICE raided four of Fresh Mark’s facilities with federal criminal search warrants, only the Salem facility was the site of arrests. The detained 146 workers are suspected of using stolen/fraudulent identification to gain employment and/or reentry into the United States after deportation.

    Steve Francis, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations Michigan/Ohio unit, said the raid was the result of more than a year-long investigation into Fresh Mark and its employees, and whether the company knowingly hired and harbored undocumented workers. "It's important that companies know not to willingly participate in the hiring of illegal aliens," said Francis.

    According to Francis, some of the workers who were arrested were taken to detention centers in Michigan and Ohio, while others may be deported immediately. ICE said those who are detained will await removal proceedings. Other workers could potentially be released on humanitarian grounds and given a Notice to Appear (NTA) at an immigration court.

    Fresh Mark, a family-owned company, which employs more than 1,000 employees, sells meat products, such as bacon, deli ham, lunch meats and sausages to restaurants, delis, grocers and stadiums nationwide. The company said it participates in E-Verify, a federal program to ensure employees have proper documentation and conducts an annual internal audit of its I-9 forms. It should be noted if an employee engages in identity theft, E-Verify may not be able to detect the theft and will issue work-authorized verification.

    This raid is further evidence that ICE is dramatically increasing their enforcement actions through raids and ICE audits of employee’s I-9 forms. Furthermore, ICE is now arresting/detaining employees at the raids/audits. In December 2017, ICE's acting director Tom Homan said, "We're not just talking about arresting the aliens at these work sites, we are also talking about employers who knowingly hire people who are unauthorized to work." So far this year, ICE has arrested more than 600 workers that it alleges were working without proper authorization. That number far exceeds the 172 arrests made in 2017, according to ICE.

    To date in FY 2018, there have been 2,282 ICE audits of employers’ I-9 forms. Derek Benner, head of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unit, said another nationwide wave of audits, like the ICE audits of 7-Eleven in January 2018, planned this summer, would push the total number of audits to "well over" 5,000 by September 30, 2018. If so, that would be almost a 400% increase from fiscal year 2017 and the highest number of ICE audits ever. According to Brenner, ICE has developed a plan to conduct as many as 15,000 I-9 audits a year if it can receive appropriate funding and support from other areas of the Trump administration. The plan calls for creation of an Employer Compliance Inspection Center to perform employer audits at a single location instead of at regional offices around the country.

    It is clear that employer raids will be a frequent tool of ICE. Every employer should be vigilant in their immigration compliance. I would advise employers to meet with their immigration counsel, or obtain immigration counsel, to conduct an internal I-9 audit and draft or review an immigration compliance policy. Though it should be noted, Fresh Mark said it conducts annual I-9 audits.

    If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, 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. ICE Raids are Back: ICE Raids Ohio Flower and Garden Center

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC



    If there was any feeling that the Bean Station raid was isolated and motivated by the IRS, those feelings are gone with this week’s raids by ICE of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky, Ohio and Castalia, Ohio. This is the second ICE raid in two months with the earlier one occurring at a meat slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee.

    On Tuesday, June 5, approximately 200 ICE agents swarmed these two plant nurseries and detained approximately 114 workers suspected of being in the country without proper work authorization. The workers were taken to various detention facilities in Michigan and Ohio, where they are expected to be placed into deportation proceedings and many are expected to be criminally charged with identity theft and tax evasion.

    An unknown number of detainees were released for a variety of humanitarian reasons, "including health, or primary care for a minor child", according to ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls.

    One interesting twist is before ICE agents entered the Sandusky facility, an undercover officer entered the store with three boxes of donuts. After a mass of employees gathered for the donuts, ICE agents entered the store.

    So, what happened to Corso’s? Company officials were not arrested during the raids. However, ICE agents, who had a criminal search warrant, carried boxes full of “documentary evidence,” out of Corso’s, according to Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Ohio. Francis also stated, “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work.”

    This raid was unlike the previous raid in Bean Station because ICE initially served Notices of Inspection weeks ago and had been auditing the 313 I-9 forms supplied by Corso’s. Before the service of the Notices of Inspection, ICE had been receiving tips into Corso’s Flower and Garden Center and began an investigation in October 2017. A triggering event was the arrest and indictment of Martha Buendia-Chavarria, who was charged with operating a document mill.

    During the ICE audit, according to ICE, they found 123 I-9 forms which were suspicious due to use of duplicate Social Security numbers and identification belonging to other people. Presumably, these identification documents were produced by Ms. Buendia-Chavarria. Thus, when the ICE agents raided the facilities, they had a list of names they had targeted for detention.

    According to a local Latino advocacy group, dozens of the workers’ children were left stranded at day-care centers and with babysitters because their parents had been detained.

    Amazingly, Corso’s business was back up and running Tuesday afternoon. According to its website, the family-owned business includes a greenhouse, flower shop, garden center, landscape department and a wholesale perennial plant division where more than two million plants are grown to supply a seven-state area.

    After these raids, it is clear that employer raids will be a frequent tool of ICE. Every employer should be vigilant in their immigration compliance. I would advise employers to meet with their immigration counsel, or obtain immigration counsel, to conduct an internal I-9 audit and draft or review an immigration compliance policy.

    If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, 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.
  4. ICE Targeting California for More “Silent Raids”

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


    On the heels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) worksite enforcement actions/inspections against 97 7-Eleven convenience stores, ICE announced it has conducted I-9 inspections of 77 employers in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas. ICE did not identify any of the businesses its agents visited in the Bay Area and the Sacramento region. However, just the fact that ICE served subpoenas on so many employers demanding their I-9 forms and then announced it to the media, demonstrates ICE is trying to put the fear of government action in the minds of every employer, especially in California.

    When ICE conducts an I-9 inspection, their agents show up at employer locations and serve a subpoena and Notice of Inspection (NOI) demanding the employer produce the I-9 forms of current employees, and often former employees, within three days of service. Often, these inspections are referred to as “silent raids” because they can have the same effect as a raid – loss of employees through ICE detention, terminations or quick abandonment of jobs.

    According to James Schwab, a spokesman for ICE, their operation is part of a strategy that is “focused on protecting jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthening public safety and national security.”

    It is interesting that ICE chose California for these actions as ICE and the Trump administration are involved in an assault on California due to their recent legislation declaring California as a sanctuary state. Thomas D. Homan, acting director of ICE, has criticized California for state and local efforts to protect undocumented immigrants and limit law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with immigration officials. Homan recently stated “We’ve got to take these sanctuary cities on. We’ve got to take them to court, and we’ve got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes.”

    California recently enacted legislation requiring employers notify their workers of such an ICE audit and provide them with the results. The law also mandates that employers ask ICE to obtain a judicial warrant in some situations though not for NOIs. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently held a press conference where he warned California employers of the consequences of violating this legislation. Thus, many California employers are perplexed as to how to be in abeyance of both federal and state immigration laws.

    Angelo Paparelli, a prominent immigration attorney with Seyfarth Shaw, stated “Serving 77 notices of inspection on different employers in the last three days within a single area of responsibility, in this case, San Francisco, appears unprecedented.”

    After the businesses comply with the subpoena/NOI, ICE auditors will carefully review the I-9 forms to determine whether undocumented workers are employed at the business and whether the I-9 forms have substantive errors, which could cost $224 to $2236 per I-9 form. If undocumented workers are employed, ICE may return to the employer and detain the undocumented workers. Alternatively, ICE may issue a Notice of Suspect Documents to the employer stating which employees do not have valid work authorization. If after the employer gives its employees an opportunity to provide valid documentation (“newer and better documentation”), the employees fail to provide such, the employer must discharge those employees or face fines of up to $4473 per employee.

    I will keep you apprised on further developments of these “silent raids” and the 7-Eleven ones. If you are concerned about your I-9 forms and the legal status of your employees, I urge you to retain an immigration attorney trained in worksite enforcement, who can spearhead an internal I-9 audit.

    If you want a full discussion of internal I-9 audits and other important immigration compliance issues, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  5. 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.
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