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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Corso’s Issues Statement after ICE Raid

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan



    Corso’s Flower and Garden Center of Sandusky, Ohio and Castalia, Ohio, the target of ICE raids on June 5, 2018, recently issued a statement concerning ICE’s investigation.

    As you may recall, on June 5, approximately 200 ICE agents swarmed Corso’s two plant nurseries and detained approximately 114 workers suspected of being in the country without proper work authorization. The workers were expected to be placed into deportation proceedings and many criminally charged with identity theft and tax evasion.
    Corso’s press release, which was shared on its Facebook page, read in pertinent part:

    Corso’s is fully complying with the government’s investigation. Corso’s regrets the stress and pain the raid had on our employees and their families…. It is our hope that federal authorities will work diligently to ensure minimal disruption to families of our employees as they execute their orders.

    Corso’s prides itself on being a good corporate citizen and has always made it a priority to operate its business with the utmost integrity, both to its employees and to the community. This means that Corso’s does right by the law, just as it does right by its employees and customers. Corso’s therefore demands proper documentation from all those seeking employment at its facilities and also ensures that all employer taxes, are properly paid.

    Just as Corso’s has strived over the past 77 years to be honest and fair in its dealings with its employees, Corso’s expects its employees to be honest with it as well. Corso’s strives to comply with U.S. employment laws and therefore asks its employees and prospective employees for honest and legitimate identification and documentation. If mistakes were made or if anyone used false, fraudulent, or otherwise disingenuous identification documents or other documents to secure employment at Corso’s, the company was not aware of those things.
    Corso’s looks forward to the resolution of this unfortunate situation and in the interim will continue to focus efforts on serving customers as the investigation proceeds.

    In this case, 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 received tips involving Corso’s and began an investigation in October 2017. A triggering event appears to be 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.

    It will be interesting to see what the result of the raid is as it relates to Corso’s. 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. 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.
  3. IER Settles Claim of Discrimination of U.S. Workers by Triple H Services, Landscaping Company

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC



    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), a part of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, reached a settlement agreement with Triple H Services LLC, a landscaping company based in Newland, North Carolina. The agreement resolves an investigation into whether Triple H discriminated against qualified and available U.S. workers based on their citizenship status by preferring to hire temporary workers with H-2B visas, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    The IER’s investigation found that although Triple H went through the motions of advertising over 450 landscape laborer vacancies in five states, it did so in a manner that misled U.S. workers about the available positions and prevented or deterred some from applying. The IER found Triple H did not consider several qualified U.S. workers who applied for positions in Virginia during the recruitment period, instead it hired H-2B visa workers. In several states where jobs were available, Triple H prematurely closed the online job application process for U.S. worker applicants, filled positions with H-2B visa workers without first advertising the jobs to U.S. workers in the relevant locations, or advertised vacancies in a manner that did not make the postings visible to job seekers using state workforce agency online services.

    The IER concluded that in taking these actions, Triple H effectively denied U.S. workers access to jobs based on its preference for hiring temporary H-2B visa workers to fill the positions. Refusing to consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers based on their citizenship status violates the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, regardless of whether an employer has complied with other rules governing the use of temporary employment-based visa programs.

    The Justice Department touted this settlement agreement as part of the Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa workers. Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said, “The Department will continue to fight to ensure that U.S. workers are not disadvantaged because of their citizenship status.”

    Under the settlement, Triple H must establish a backpay fund, with a cap of $85,000, to compensate certain individuals who were harmed by its practices; pay $15,600 in civil penalties to the U.S. government; engage in enhanced recruitment activities to attract U.S. workers; revise any existing employment policies so that they prohibit discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status, and national origin in the recruitment and hiring processes; train its Human Resources personnel on their legal obligations to not discriminate by viewing a free online IER webinar presentation; and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting for a three-year period.

    This settlement is the second in the last week related to discrimination against U.S. workers. For answers to many other questions related to the IER and immigration compliance, 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.
  4. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims Against J.C. Penney

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), a Division of the Justice Department, has reached a settlement agreement with J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. The agreement resolves two investigations, one into whether J.C. Penney unlawfully rejected a lawful permanent resident’s valid work authorization documentation, and the other into whether J.C. Penney violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by unlawfully reverifying the work authorization of certain non-U.S. citizens.

    The first investigation was prompted by a lawful permanent resident’s charge alleging J.C. Penney violated the INA’s anti-discrimination provision when J.C. Penney fired her in August 2016. The investigation found J.C. Penney had improperly rejected the worker’s unexpired Permanent Resident Card as proof of her work authorization. The second investigation found J.C. Penney had unlawfully reverified the work authorization of certain non-U.S. citizens solely based on their citizenship status, even though those non-citizens had presented the same type of valid work authorization documents as U.S. citizens when first hired.

    The IER also found J.C. Penney unlawfully requested specific immigration documents from certain workers during the process of reverifying their work authorization because of their immigration status. Among other things, the INA prohibits employers from (1) rejecting valid work authorization documents, (2) limiting a worker’s choice of documentation to present for employment verification or reverification purposes, and (3) subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands, based on the employee’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

    Under the terms of the settlement, J.C. Penney will pay a civil penalty of $14,430 to the United States; pay $11,177.60 in back pay to the worker who filed the charge; train its staff and corporate human resources personnel on their legal obligations to not discriminate on the basis of citizenship, immigration status, and national origin; require HR personnel to take an open book multiple choice test on the I-9 process; revise any existing employment policies so that they prohibit discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status, and national origin; honor employees’ documentation that appears genuine and relates to the person; not request more of different documents than required by law; post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision; and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.

    It appears the IER is requiring more and more from employers entering into settlements. For example, HR personnel at J.C. Penney will be required to pass a test. This is a method to make sure that the law as relates to the I-9 process will be followed in the future. For answers to many other questions related to the IER and immigration compliance, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  5. IER Settles with Setpoint Systems Over Discrimination Against Non-Citizens

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC



    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), a Division of the Justice Department, has reached a settlement with Setpoint Systems Inc., an Ogden, Utah, engineering company. The settlement resolves an investigation into whether the company engaged in hiring discrimination against non-U.S. citizens protected under the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision.

    The investigation found that from 2015 to 2017, Setpoint Systems had an unlawful policy of hiring only U.S. citizens for professional positions and refusing to consider otherwise qualified non-U.S. citizens based on the company’s erroneous understanding of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ITAR regulates specific exports of defense articles and services and limits the access of certain sensitive information to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, asylees, and refugees. ITAR does not authorize employers to only hire U.S. citizens. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual in the recruitment and hiring process based on citizenship status, unless authorized by law.

    Under the settlement agreement, Setpoint Systems will pay $17,475 in civil penalties to the United States for the alleged unfair immigration-related employment practices; train its Human Resources personnel on their legal obligations to not discriminate by viewing a free online IER webinar presentation; review and revise, if necessary, any existing employment policies that relate to nondiscrimination based on non-U.S. citizenship status; ensure all job advertisements have been reviewed by legal counsel or an employee who is trained on anti-discrimination laws; post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision; and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.

    This settlement is another indication that the federal government is serious about cracking down on discrimination based on whether one is or is not a U.S. citizen. For answers to many other questions related to the IER and immigration compliance, 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.
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