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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. ICE Targeted 7-Eleven Stores for “Silent Raids”

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    As discussed in my prior blog entry (http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?10245...-Service-Chain) that Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) would be targeting a national food service chain, ICE delivered Notice of Inspections (NOIs) (sometimes referred to as “silent raids”) at 98 7-Eleven stores nationwide on January 10, 2018 demanding to see the I-9 forms of all employees. Furthermore, ICE detained 21 employees.

    The 7-Eleven stores involved are in 17 states, including California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. 7-Eleven, Inc. issued a statement stating each of the stores is a franchise, who is “solely responsible for their employees, including who to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.” Furthermore, it stated that the franchise agreements of franchisees “convicted” of violating immigration laws, have been terminated.

    ICE referred to their recent actions as a “follow-up” of a 2013 investigation that resulted in the arrests and convictions of five franchise owners in New York and Virginia for harboring undocumented workers and wire fraud. Because of these convictions, it spawned the largest forfeiture in ICE history – forfeiture of franchise rights to 14 stores, forfeiture of five houses, valued at $1.3 million, and restitution of over $2.6 million for back wages stolen from employees. See my blog entry (http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?8272-...in-ICE-History) for October 6, 2014 for more details on the 2014 convictions.

    Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, issued a statement – “Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”

    One of the unique aspects of the delivery of NOIs is the detention of 21 employees. In the Obama administration, which issued thousands of NOIs every year, ICE would not normally detain workers at the time of the NOI; rather, ICE would issue a Notice of Suspect Documents to the employer stating the named employees’ documentation did not demonstrate work authorization. Then the employer gave the employee an opportunity to provide “new” documentation. If employees were unable to provide valid documentation, the employer had to discharge the employees or face penalties. However, at no point in this process did ICE seek to detain undocumented workers.

    Homan had previously stated ICE was going to detain undocumented workers during NOIs and now we know how ICE is going to accomplish this. Unless ICE can establish that the employer was aware or should have been aware of the workers’ undocumented status, the employer will not face civil penalties or criminal penalties. In ICE’s previous actions toward 7-Eleven franchises, it established knowledge of undocumented status.

    After the indictments and convictions of the store owners in New York and Virginia in 2013 and 2014, 7-Eleven’s corporate office stated it would “take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all of its franchisees’ employees.” However, 7-Elevens recent statement appears to try and wash their hands of any responsibility or liability for the franchisees’ actions.

    I will keep you abreast of future developments in the case. For a review of ICE’s civil and criminal actions against employers as well as other employer immigration compliance issues, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. ICE to Increase Worksite Immigration Enforcement Actions in Tennessee

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), through Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), plans to increase worksite immigration enforcement actions across Tennessee in 2018, according to Robert Hammer, an assistant special agent in charge of HSI in Nashville, Tennessee. As previously reported, Thomas D. Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has stated there will be 4 to 5 times increase in worksite enforcement actions, usually referred to as inspections, in 2018. See http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?10186...-Current-Level.

    Hammer made this statement after the indictment of 20 undocumented workers for using fake IDs to work in a sensitive air cargo area at Memphis International Airport.

    http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?10292...mented-Workers. Hammer also stated worksite immigration investigations will likely focus on "critical infrastructure," such as airports, defense contractors, food distribution and other businesses that have an impact on the general safety and welfare of the community. The emphasis on critical infrastructure is because the agency is making it one of its priorities.

    Although the Obama Administration greatly increased worksite immigration enforcement actions from 2009 through 2014, it curtailed these operations in the last two years of its administration. The Trump Administration’s increase will more than double the highest number of worksite immigration enforcement actions under the Obama Administration. Increased enforcement could have a big impact on companies and industries that use immigrant labor, especially in those states which do not require the use of E-Verify.

    If an employer receives a Notice of Inspection from ICE, its I-9 forms may show the employment of undocumented workers and the employer may have knowingly hired unauthorized workers, which is against the law. Alternatively, an employer may not have knowingly hired unauthorized workers but still those undocumented workers must be discharged (unless they quit) or the employer will be fined.

    If you want a full discussion of the possible criminal and civil sanctions against employers for violating immigration laws, I recommend you read my book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379. There are chapters dedicated to civil penalties and criminal sanctions for violating immigration laws.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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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