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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. 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.
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