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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. The Quiet Before the Storm? A Review of 2017 OCAHO I-9 Penalty Decisions

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law




    Today, I am re-publishing my annual review of OCAHO decisions, which was originally published by LawLogix on May 17, 2018.

    The Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) was incredibly quiet in calendar year 2017 issuing only 5 substantive decisions against employers in I-9 penalty cases. This was a sudden change from 2016 when there were 16 substantive decisions against employers in I-9 penalty cases. Why the drastic reduction? Did employers stop committing I-9 violations? Did employers stop appealing decisions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? As recent news clearly illustrates, the answer to both questions is a resounding no.

    The real reason for the reduction in cases is actually much simpler and less provocative: turnover of Administrative Law Judges at OCAHO…..

    [I]t’s still worthwhile to review the substantive cases that were issued in 2017, in the hopes that employers can benefit in the future (when cases are once again likely to increase).

    For remainder of article go to https://www.lawlogix.com/the-quiet-b...lty-decisions/.

    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.

    Updated 06-11-2018 at 02:57 PM by BBuchanan

  2. 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.
  3. ICE’s I-9 Audits Will Increase by 400% in Fiscal Year 2018

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    As I have discussed numerous times in this blog, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under the Trump administration, has significantly increased I-9 inspections/audits of employers to verify that their employees are authorized to work in the country and determine whether substantive paperwork violations have occurred. Now, we have statistics which substantiate the heightened activity of ICE in worksite enforcement.

    Between October 1, 2017, the beginning of fiscal year 2018, and May 4, 2018, there have been 2,282 ICE audits of employers’ I-9 forms while in the prior fiscal year, October 2016 and September 2017, there were 1,360 audits. 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 the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2018. If so, that would be almost a 400% increase from fiscal year 2017 and highest number of ICE audits ever. ICE audits, as we know them today, started in George W. Bush’s administration. ICE audits previously peaked at 3,127 in 2013.

    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. Benner said that putting up to 250 auditors in one center with the right technology and a team of attorneys to quickly levy fines would enable his agency to audit between 10,000 and 15,000 companies annually.

    Benner stated one of the goals of this proposal is to create a "reasonable expectation" among employers that they will be audited. "This is kind of our vision of creating this culture of compliance," he said. "I think it's a game-changer."

    The plan also proposes changing the manner of delivery of the ICE Notice of Inspection (NOI) from in person to email or certified mail. Furthermore, after an initial review, by electronically scanning the I-9 forms for suspicious activity, the most egregious cases will be sent to regional offices for more in-depth investigation.

    Benner said the agency will focus both on criminal cases against employers as well deporting employees who in the country illegally. The statistics show there were 594 employers arrested on criminal work-related immigration charges from October 1 to May 4, up from 139 during the previous fiscal year.

    The deportation numbers will certainly increase due to this worksite enforcement as ICE has begun to detain employees listed on the Notice of Suspect Documents. Prior administrations did not detain undocumented workers on the Notice of Suspect Documents which lead many undocumented workers to quit one employer and find work down the road with another employer. As Brenner and many other immigration officials have stated, hiring undocumented workers creates unfair advantages for companies, encourages people to come to the U.S. illegally, results in document and identity fraud, exposes workers to potentially dangerous conditions without proper equipment, and leads to failure to pay overtime pay.

    If the heightened I-9 audits by ICE frightens you, as it should, be prepared and conduct an internal I-9 audit under the direction or control of an experienced immigration attorney with expertise in worksite enforcement. 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. Placement of STEM OPT Workers in Third-Party Client/Customer Sites is Barred

    By: Bruce Buchanan Sebelist Buchanan Law



    In a below the radar move, the USCIS has updated its webpage for Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) to reflect a ban on the placement of STEM OPT workers at third-party client/customer sites. In doing so, the USCIS is relying upon a March 11, 2016 final rule amending regulations to expand OPT for students with U.S. degrees in STEM. The rule included new provisions to obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension including, each STEM OPT student must prepare and execute with their prospective employer a formal training plan that identifies learning objectives and a plan for achieving training objectives, and the employer must agree to announced and unannounced Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) site visits to employer locations where STEM OPT students are employed.

    Although the new rule does not prohibit placement of students at third-party worksites, the USCIS states the DHS/ICE site visit provision is the basis for the new prohibition. USCIS’s website states:
    The training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite(s) to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements. This means that ICE must always have access to a student’s worksite; if the student is sent to different worksite locations as part of the training opportunity, ICE must be able to access such worksite locations. For instance, the training experience may not take place at the place of business or worksite of the employer’s clients or customers because ICE would lack authority to visit such sites.

    The change in the website did not provide any explanation as to why DHS/ICE lacks the authority to conduct a site visit on the premises of a third-party client if that client site had been clearly listed on an approved Form I-983 training application. The Form I-983 training application sets forth that DHS may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit. It would be reasonable to conclude that by listing a third-party client site as the student’s work location on the I-983, that the worksite is open to a site visit by ICE.

    Why would the USCIS update its website with no prior notice and no opportunity for comment? Great question without an answer. Hopefully, DHS will provide an answer but don’t count on it. If they do, I will report in a future blog article.

    Updated 05-10-2018 at 09:29 AM by BBuchanan

  5. Bay Area Restaurants Fear ICE I-9 Audits

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    Restaurants in the Bay area of California are on pins and needles fearful of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) continued assault on California due to California passing laws viewed by ICE as restricting their ability to find and detain undocumented individuals. As discussed in prior blogs, ICE has been very active in delivering Notices of Inspection (NOI)/subpoenas to California employers.

    In an article in San Francisco Chronicle, https://www.sfchronicle.com/restaura...r-12823400.php, Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, was quoted as stating “Everyone is fearing a day that ICE could show up at their doors.”

    When ICE conducts an I-9 inspection/audit, their agents show up at employer locations and serve a subpoena and 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.

    Nick Cobarruvias, co-owner of Son’s Addition, employs roughly 29 people at his restaurant. He said about two-thirds are immigrants. Cobarruvias said one employee recently failed to show up for work for several days. Both he and staff members tried contacting him to no avail. “It turned out he was picked up by ICE. Just wrong place, wrong time,” Cobarruvias said. “This is the new reality we’re dealing with. People talk about it like it’s theoretical, but this is really happening.”


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