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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. California’s New Law Requiring Employee Notification of ICE Audits and More

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The State of California has a new law, “The Immigrant Worker Protection Act” (AB 450), which requires employers to notify its employees by written notice within 72 hours of Notice of Inspection (NOI) of I-9 records and to notify its employees, individually, of the results of the I-9 audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within 72 hours of receiving the results of the NOI. Concerning these notifications, the Labor Commissioner is required to develop a template.

    The new California law also requires ICE agents to provide a judicial warrant to employers to access non-public portions of worksites. Thus, employers may not simply consent for ICE to have access to non-public portions of the worksite. The new law does not restrict ICE from providing a NOI to an employer demanding the employees’ I-9 forms within three days of service of the NOI and the employer being required to honor it. Additionally, employers are prohibited from sharing confidential employee information, such as Social Security numbers, unless required to do so in a NOI or provided a judicial warrant.

    The penalty for a first offense is $2,000 to $5,000 and for each subsequent violation - $5,000 to $10,000. The enforcement of these penalties is under the exclusive authority of the Labor Commissioner or California Attorney General. Thus, employers or employees may not seek enforcement of the statute.

    The question that I have with this legislation is whether any of it is preempted under federal law, Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Under federal law, when ICE wants to inspect an employer’s I-9 forms, it issues a Notice of Inspection and usually an administrative subpoena. I don’t believe the portions of the legislation concerning notifying workers would be preempted by federal law. It’s unclear whether restricting access to non-public portions of the worksites is preempted.

    I will keep you updated on any litigation over this new state law. For a review of all employment and immigration-related state laws and other issues related to employer immigration compliance, 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.
  2. DOJ Settles Immigration-Related Claim for $200,000 against Staffing Companies

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached a settlement whereby CitiStaff Solutions Inc., and CitiStaff Management Group Inc. (collectively CitiStaff) agreed to pay a civil penalty of $200,000 to the United States government. The settlement resolves the investigation into whether CitiStaff violated the law by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their work authorization.

    Based on its investigation, IER concluded that CitiStaff, which provide staffing services in the greater Los Angeles, California area, routinely requested non-U.S. citizens present specific documents to prove their work authorization, such as Permanent Resident Cards (green cards) or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), but did not make similar requests for specific documents to U.S. citizens. All work-authorized individuals, whether U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens, have the right to choose which valid documentation to present to prove they are authorized to work. The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits employers from subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

    Furthermore, the investigation found CitiStaff required lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to reverify their work authorization status when their Permanent Resident Cards expired. It is unlawful to require reverification of a green card even if it expires as the LPRs continue to hold lawful status after a green card’s expiration.

    Under the settlement, CitiStaff will pay a civil penalty of $200,000 to the United States, train its staff on the law, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.

    Companies need to be aware of the laws relating to determining employees’ lawful employment status as well as the law concerning re-verification. As you see, it is so easy for employers to make costly mistakes. For the answers to many other questions related to employer immigration compliance, 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.
  3. Effects of Temination of DACA on Employers

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Since President Trump’s announcement rescinding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), media focus has been on the 800,000 DACA recipients – as it rightfully should be. However, there is going to be another entity impacted - employers of those 800,000 DACA recipients.

    Not only do employers need to be concerned about the loss of valuable employees, but employers need to be concerned with staying in compliance of immigration laws. It is fundamental immigration law that employees cannot legally work without proof of their identity and work authorization. Thus, when DACA recipients’ Employment Authorization Card (EAD) expire, employers will need to discharge DACA recipients, unless they have found another way to obtain work authorization (which is very unlikely).

    But before employers start discharging employees, one needs to be careful not to do so prematurely. During the period of DACA’s work authorization, even beyond March 5, 2018, when the USCIS will no longer approve DACA renewals, DACA employees can be authorized to legally work. It all depends on the EAD’s expiration date. Although no renewal EAD will be issued after March 5, 2018, this doesn’t mean all DACA recipients are not eligible to work after March 5, 2018.

    As an example, DACA employee Jose has an EAD which expires on March 4, 2018, so he can renew his DACA status and EAD (if the renewal is filed by October 5, 2017). Thus, he will be eligible to work until about March 2020. On the other hand, another employee, Mohammed, has an EAD pursuant to DACA, which expires on March 6, 2018. Unfortunately, March 6, 2018 is the date his employment must terminate. Thus, employers must be observant of the EAD’s expiration date.

    How does an employer even know whether the EAD is through DACA, TPS, or withholding of removal? There is a code on the front of the EAD card. For DACA, the code is C33. This code is different than codes for TPS or withholding - A10, A12 or C19.

    Some employers may ask why can’t I just discharge DACA recipients now. First, they are probably very good employees – as so many of them are proud to be legally working for the first time in their lives. Second, hopefully Congress is going to pass the DREAM Act or some other legislation that will provide for lawful employment for DACA recipients; thus, employers won’t have to face the issue. However, if an employer chose to discharge a DACA recipient based on his DACA status, it is very unlikely that the discharge would be unlawful under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

    Some small employers may be thinking I’m just going to look the other way and not terminate DACA recipients when their work authorization expires. Although I can understand employers not wanting to hurt their DACA employees, employers need to consider their own situation. If an employer continues to employ a worker after his work authorization expires, is not renewed, and no other work authorization is provided, they are subject to “knowingly” employing an undocumented worker. The fines for such a first offense range from $539 to over $4000, with a fine of over $3,000 being the most likely. If you have five DACA employees that you retain without work authorization, you are looking at a fine of $15,000 before Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has even looked at your Form I-9s for substantive violations. So, your heart may tell you to keep DACA recipients without work authorization; but, listen to your head, which is filled with dollar signs for fines and penalties.

    For the answers to many other questions related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  4. New I-9 Form Must Be Used as of September 18

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    As I previously discussed in my July 19, 2017 blog, the USCIS released a new revised I-9 form on July 17, 2017. It becomes mandatory to use for new hires as of September 18, 2017. In the interim period, July 17 to September 17, use of the new I-9 form was optional. The newest I-9 form has a revision date of 07/17/17 N.

    There are no changes on the I-9 form or the Supplemental page. The minor changes are the addition of Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C Acceptable Documents and minor wording changes in the instructions.

    USCIS has stated it will include these changes in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274). However, to date, the USCIS has not do so. I will keep you advised.

    In order to keep you compliant and answer your questions on completing the I-9 form, using E-Verify, and state immigration laws, I have co-authored a book with Greg Siskind, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, available from Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379
  5. Restaurant Owner Going to Prison for Harboring Undocumented Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    An owner of two restaurants in Ukiah, California, Yaowapha Ritdet, was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison for harboring for profit and corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the internal revenue laws. According to documents filed with the court, Ritdet hired Thai nationals who were illegally present in the United States to work at her restaurants, Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine and Walter Café. Ritdet underpaid these employees, paid them in cash, and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status. Ritdet also did not pay employment taxes on the cash wages. Ritdet filed false individual income tax returns for 2007 through 2011 that underreported the gross receipts, sales, and income she received from her two restaurants.

    In addition to prison, Ritdet was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay approximately $567,755.65 in restitution, including $70,768 to underpaid employees and $496,987 to the Internal Revenue Service.
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