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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. 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.
  2. Asplundh Tree Experts Agrees to pay $95 Million for Illegal Hiring

    BY: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Asplundh Tree Experts has agreed to pay $95 million concerning the employment of undocumented workers. This is the largest monetary penalty ever levied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an immigration case. Based on Asplundh Tree Experts Company’s guilty plea in federal court, the Court imposed a sentence of $80 million forfeiture money judgment. Pursuant to a separate Civil Settlement Agreement, Asplundh will pay an additional $15 million dollars to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with immigration law.

    Asplundh, an industry leader in tree trimming and brush clearance for power and gas lines, headquartered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to unlawfully employing aliens, regarding a scheme in which the highest levels of Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States.

    Court documents show the hiring system was developed after a 2009 I-9 inspection by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which revealed Asplundh employed workers who were ineligible to work in the country. Asplundh fired at least 100 of them, but a regional manager, Larry Gauger, later instructed supervisors to hire some of them back by accepting fake forms of identification, including permanent resident cards or Social Security cards. Gauger knew the dismissed employees within his region were being re-hired under different and false names and false identity documentation and encouraged his supervisors and general foreman to continue this practice.

    Thereafter, the investigation revealed Asplundh decentralized its hiring so Sponsors (the highest levels of management) could remain willfully blind while Supervisors and General Foremen (2nd and 3rd level supervisors) hired ineligible workers, including unauthorized aliens, in the field. Hiring was by word of mouth referrals rather than through any systematic application process. This manner of hiring enabled Supervisors and General Foremen to hire a work force that was readily available. This decentralized model tacitly perpetuated fraudulent hiring practices that, in turn, maximized productivity and profit.

    The amount of the $80 million forfeiture was determined by a review of Asplundh’s payroll, which showed the employment of thousands of undocumented immigrants over four years. Asplundh had a workforce of approximately 30,000. Investigators determined that Asplundh used the fraudulent techniques to hire at least 10 percent of its workforce — or about 3,000 to 4,000 workers — in a four-year span, and earned $800 million in profits during that stretch. The presiding Judge, Josh A. Davison, said the idea of a forfeiture is to seize illegal gains, so the government reasoned that the illegally hired 10 percent of the workforce generated 10 percent of the profits. Thus, 10% of $80 million is $80 million.

    Prior to the company’s guilty plea, regional manager Gauger has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in October 2017, along with two supervisors, Juan Rodriguez and Jude Solis, who pleaded guilty in the same conspiracy.

    This case is another example of the U.S. government cracking down on employers who violate the immigration laws.
  3. DOJ Files Complaint Alleging Discrimination Against U.S. Citizens

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The Justice Department, acting through Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has filed a Complaint against Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production) of Loveland, Colorado, for allegedly discriminating against U.S. workers in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In announcing the Complaint, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated, “In the spirit of President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, the Department of Justice will not tolerate employers who discriminate against U.S. workers because of a desire to hire temporary foreign visa holders.”

    The Complaint, filed with Office of Chief Administration Hearing Officer (OCAHO), alleges Crop Production discriminated against at least three U.S. citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians in El Campo, Texas, because Crop Production preferred to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. Additionally, the Complaint alleges Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility. For instance, the Complaint alleged that whereas U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A workers could begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them. The Complaint also alleged Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment but hired H-2A workers who could not speak English. Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A workers rather than U.S. workers.

    Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign workers over available, qualified U.S. workers. In addition, the H-2A visa program requires employers to recruit and hire available, qualified U.S. workers before hiring temporary foreign workers. The Complaint seeks back pay on behalf of the workers, civil penalties, and other remedial relief to correct and prevent discrimination.

    This Complaint and Attorney General Sessions’ statement demonstrate the ability of the Trump administration to enforce Trump’s Executive Order - Buy American and Hire American. This is the second Complaint filed in two months alleging discrimination against U.S. citizens. I discussed the first Complaint against Technical Marine Maintenance Texas LLC in a prior blog post - http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?10034...tus-is-Unusual.

    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.
  4. E-Verify Participation Poster Redesigned

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    The USCIS has recently released a redesigned E-Verify participation poster. The new poster informs current and prospective employees of their legal rights, responsibilities, and protections in the employment eligibility verification process.

    The poster is now available in English and Spanish as one poster. Employers must replace their participation posters when updates are provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Thus, employers should check to see if the most current poster is available. The new posters can be downloaded when participants log into E-Verify. Employers may also display any of 16 foreign language versions of the poster.

    E-Verify employers continue to be required to display the Immigrant and Employee Rights (IER) Right to Work posters in English and Spanish.

    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 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  5. Trump’s Extreme Vetting – L-1B Site Visits

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    As many immigration attorneys had anticipated, L-1B site visits by the USCIS and its Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) officers have recently begun. This appears to be another example of the Trump administration’s extreme vetting. These site visits have occurred while companies have pending L-1B visa extensions with the USCIS.

    An L-1B visa is a transfer of an employee with specialized knowledge from a foreign office of the company or its affiliate or subsidiary to a United States facility. It is dissimilar to the H-1B visa in that it is not subject to a cap nor any salary restrictions. But, it can only be utilized by multinational corporations. It is like an H-1B visa in that it is a vehicle for a company to employ a skilled foreign worker on a non-immigrant or temporary visa. An L-1B visa holder is eligible to be employed for up to five years.

    Historically, site visits have taken place on H-1B visas, especially where the H-1B visa holder was employed off-site. As a result of Trump’s April 2017 Executive Order “Buy American and Hire American”, the administration has stated it will use a “more targeted approach” to H-1B visits – meaning more site visits where there is possible fraud or abuse in the visa application.

    Some of the pending legislation in Congress to reform or change the H-1B visa also includes changes to the L-1B visa. Senator Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) has made the L-1B visa a target for immigration reform. Thus, this seems in keeping with the administration and their friends in Congress grouping H-1B visas with L-1B visas.

    At this point, it is difficult to determine how widespread the L-1B site visits are; however, the fact that there are L-1B site visits while a petition is pending is a change from prior administrations. I would anticipate these L-1B site visits to increase as this appears to be part of the Trump administration’s extreme vetting. I will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
    Tags: fraud, h-1b, l-1b, trump, uscis Add / Edit Tags
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