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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Sheriff Arpaio’s Unlawful Actions Lead Court to Find Frimmel Has No Liability

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC




    Just when you thought Sheriff Joe Arpaio could not cause further trouble because he’s out of office, he strikes again in an immigration case.

    This case centers on a Notice of Inspection (NOI) that was delivered to Frimmel Management after Sheriff Arpaio’s police force, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), conducted raids of two Uncle Sam’s restaurants and the owner’s home. MCSO seized employment records based on suspicion that the restaurants’ workers committed identity theft and forgery. During the State of Arizona’s prosecution of Frimmel, the state court found the affidavits supporting the search warrant for the raids were “unreasonable and reckless.” Therefore, the Court dismissed the charges against Frimmel.

    One day after MCSO’s raids, MCSO sent a memorandum to ICE summarizing the results of the unlawful raid. Thereafter, MCSO issued press releases publicizing their raids and stated some of the workers had been put on ICE holds.

    About two and one-half weeks after the raids, ICE served a NOI/subpoena on Frimmel. After Frimmel timely produced the restaurants’ I-9 forms, ICE issued a Notice of Intent to fine (NIF) and a complaint for the case to be heard by an OCAHO Administrative Law Judge.

    In response to Frimmel’s objections, this ALJ found that how Frimmel had come to the attention of ICE was “irrelevant” to the OCAHO case. Frimmel also argued the I-9 forms must be suppressed under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. The ALJ disagreed and found ICE had not relied on any “evidence directly obtained from MCSO’s unlawful conduct.” Since the primary goal of suppressing evidence based on illegal conduct is to deter future unlawful police conduct, this was not a factor in question in the ICE’s NOI of Frimmel. Thus, the ALJ upheld the $347,000 penalty.

    On appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court initially reviewed MCSO’s conduct. It found that MCSO’s omissions and distortions in the affidavits for the search warrant were “reckless and immaterial.” Thus, this finding led the 9th Circuit to find the raids violated the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
    Furthermore, the Count found MCSO’s conduct to be egregious.

    Despite those findings, DHS argued the “ICE investigation was too attenuated from MCSO’s illegal conduct” Under the attenuation doctrine, evidence is admissible when “the connection between the illegality and challenged evidence has become so attenuated as to dissipate the taint caused by the illegality.”

    The Court rejected that argument and found there was a causal connection between MCSO’s unlawful search and the ICE audit. The identity evidence – Frimmell and his restaurants – resulted from MCSO’s raid, which “significantly directed the subsequent ICE investigation.” Thus, the I-9 forms which ICE seized were fruit of MCSO’s illegal search.

    In conclusion, the 9th Circuit found for Frimmel because ICE used the fruit of the poisonous tree – the I-9 forms. Thus, Frimmell did not owe the $347,000 that OCAHO had found as penalties.

    Although very few cases get litigated to the Court of Appeals, companies continue to have some success in appeals to the Courts of Appeal. Several years ago, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed OCAHO’s $227,000 penalty against Employer Solutions Staffing Group II, LLC.

    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. Federal Judge Rules For and Against DOJ in Lawsuit Against California

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    On July 5, 2018, Federal District Court Judge John Mendez of the Eastern District of California, struck down provisions of AB 450, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (IWPA), that restricted employers from allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to access nonpublic parts of a workplace without a warrant and re-verifying employee work authorization. However, the Judge upheld AB 450's requirement that employers notify employees within 72 hours of I-9 inspections that have been conducted.

    As you may recall from prior blog entries, AB 450 (IWPA) states California-based employers:


    • Are prohibited from voluntarily granting immigration enforcement agents access to any non-public areas of a worksite unless the agents present a judicial warrant;
    • Are prohibited from voluntarily allowing ICE agents to access, review, or obtain any employee records unless the agents present a Notice of Inspection (NOI) of Forms I-9, an administrative or judicial subpoena, or a judicial warrant requiring compliance;
    • Are prohibited from reverifying the employment eligibility of any current employee unless required by federal law;
    • Are required, if served with an I-9 NOI, to give notice in writing within 72 hours to each current employee at the worksite and any authorized labor union that an I-9 inspection has begun; and
    • Must notify any affected employee or authorized union representative within 72 hours of receiving any subsequent I-9 related federal notices, such as Notice of Suspect Documents.


    In March 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued California alleging AB 450 and two other new state laws designed to protect certain undocumented immigrants are unconstitutional. "The provisions of state law at issue have the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for federal immigration officers to carry out their responsibilities in California," Justice Department lawyers argue in the suit, further calling the laws an "obstacle to the United States' enforcement of the immigration laws and discriminating against federal immigration enforcement."

    Judge Mendez ruled against a preliminary injunction on the AB 450 Notice requirements because they are not preempted by federal authority over immigration. However, the Judge preliminarily enjoined California authorities from:


    • fining employers or otherwise enforcing the bans on reverifying the employment eligibility of current employees;
    • voluntarily giving immigration enforcement agents access to nonpublic areas of the worksite; or
    • allowing them to access, review, or obtain employee records.


    In doing so, Judge Mendez requested the President and Congress to act and stated:
    This Court has gone to great lengths to explain the legal grounds for its opinion. This Order hopefully will not be viewed through a political lens and this Court expresses no views on the soundness of the policies or statutes involved in this lawsuit. There is no place for politics in our judicial system and this one opinion will neither define nor solve the complicated immigration issues currently facing our Nation.

    Accordingly, this Court joins the ever-growing chorus of Federal Judges in urging our elected officials to set aside the partisan and polarizing politics dominating the current immigration debate and work in a cooperative and bi-partisan fashion toward drafting and passing legislation that addresses this critical political issue. Our Nation deserves it. Our Constitution demands it.

    I will keep you informed of further developments in this litigation.
  3. ICE delivers more than 5,200 audit notices in 2018

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    As discussed last week in my blog, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) were out in force during the week of July 16 delivering Notice of Inspection (NOI)/audit notices. Well now we know the numbers - HSI served 2,738 NOIs and made 32 arrests in a one-week period. This is a massive operation and over 10 times as big as ICE’s operation in California earlier this year.

    ICE announced I-9 audit notices were served to more than 5,200 businesses around the United States since January 2018. During the first phase of the operation, January 29 to March 30, 2018, HSI served 2,540 NOIs and made 61 arrests. Thus, at the present rate, ICE-HSI will reach over 8,500 NOIs for the 2018 calendar year. This is over 5,000 audits more than the highest previous amount of about 3,100 in 2013.

    HSI is currently carrying out its commitment to increase the number of I-9 audits in an effort to create a culture of compliance among employers, according to Derek N. Benner, Acting Executive Associate Director for HSI. HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law, and the use of I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law. HSI’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices.

    Failure to follow the law can result in criminal and civil penalties. In FY17, businesses were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines, including one company whose financial penalties represented the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.

    In FY 2018, to date, HSI opened 6,093 worksite investigations and made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests, respectively. In fiscal year 2017, HSI opened 1,716 worksite investigations; initiated 1,360 I-9 audits; and made 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests related to worksite enforcement.

    Will your company be the next target? My advice is to be prepared through an internal I-9 Audit. An immigration attorney familiar with I-9 forms and worksite enforcement is the perfect person to assist you in an internal I-9 audit.

    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. ICE Sweeps Through South

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    During the week of July 16, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), swept across at least three states, Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas, delivering Notices of Inspection (NOI). According to an ICE official, HSI delivered 43 NOIs/subpoenas in Arkansas, 40 in West Tennessee, and an unknown number in Georgia.

    Earlier in the year, ICE had concentrated on California in worksite enforcement. It was anticipated that ICE would go east with NOIs although it was unknown which states would be hit in these waves of NOIs.

    Best advice for anyone who receives an NOI – retain an immigration attorney familiar with I-9 forms and worksite enforcement. Failure to obtain experienced legal counsel could be of great detriment to that employer.

    Will your company be next? My advice is be prepared through an internal I-9 Audit. An immigration attorney familiar with I-9 forms and worksite enforcement is the perfect person to assist you in an internal I-9 audit.

    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.
  5. 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.
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