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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. 7-Eleven Forfeiture is Largest in ICE History

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    In the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in ICE history, five franchisees and operators of 7-Eleven stores located on Long Island, New York and in Virginia pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud and concealing and harboring undocumented workers employed at their stores. When sentencing hearings are held in federal court at a later date, the defendants also face up to 10 years in prison.

    The defendants owned, managed, and controlled a total of 14 franchised 7-Eleven stores. They allegedly hired dozens of undocumented immigrants to work at the stores, provided them with stolen identities of U.S. citizens, housed them at residential properties owned by the defendants and stole their wages. In all, the defendants' activities generated over $182 million in proceeds which they split among themselves.

    As part of their plea agreements with the government, the defendants will:

    - forfeit the franchise rights to 14 franchised stores - ten in New York and four in Virginia;
    - forfeit five houses in New York worth more than $1.3 million; and
    - pay the sum of $2,621,114.97 in restitution for the back wages they stole from their workers.

    ICE took the opportunity to warn employers that this case should serve as an example to employers who "seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce". This record-setting forfeiture is a reminder of last year's record-setting penalty of $34 million against Infosys Limited which resulted from that company's settlement with ICE-HSI for visa fraud and I-9 violations. Be sure to follow my blog, and stay up to date on these headline-grabbing forfeitures and penalties.

    Click here for a copy of the ICE press release.
  2. Airline Settles Immigration Claim for $270,000

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), within the Justice Department, has reached a settlement with United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent company of the former Continental Airlines, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The settlement comes after an investigation into a complaint that was called-in to the OSC Worker Hotline.

    OSC’s investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Continental Airlines engaged in citizenship status discrimination during the employment eligibility verification process in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). OSC alleged that Continental Airlines requested lawful permanent resident employees, but not U.S. citizen employees, to complete additional I-9 Forms and provide additional proof of employment eligibility after hire, even though the law prohibits this practice.

    The INA’s anti-discrimination provision specifically prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on work-authorized employees during the hiring and employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status or national origin.

    As part of the settlement agreement, United Continental Holdings Inc. will pay $215,000 to the United States Treasury and create a $55,000 back pay fund to compensate any individuals who suffered economic damages, including suspension, termination, or other periods of lost work, or loss of seniority as a result of Continental Airlines’ practices. Further, the company will be subject to departmental monitoring of its employment eligibility re-verification practices for a period of two (2) years and will be required to do the following:

    1) Advise OSC of any changes in the company’s employment policies as they relate to nondiscrimination on the basis of citizenship status and national origin at least thirty (30) days prior to the effective date of such revised policies;

    2) Ensure that all individuals who are responsible for formulating, carrying out, and/or conducting training on the company’s employment eligibility verification policies, including all managers and employees who have any role making or carrying out employment eligibility verification policies and practices, such as completing the Form I-9 and/or using the E-Verify system ("Verifying Personnel"), are in possession of the most current version of the Form I-9, USCIS Employment Eligibility Verification Handbook for Employers and the most current USCIS E-Verify Manual; and

    3) Send all new Verifying Personnel to attend an Office of Special Counsel Employer/HR webinar within sixty (60) days of hire or promotion.

    This settlement demonstrates that employers, large and small, can benefit from incorporating INA anti-discrimination provisions into a company I-9 Compliance policy, and from conducting immigration compliance training.

    A copy of the settlement agreement can be viewed here.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Buchanan is an attorney with the law firm of Siskind Susser P.C. - www.visalaw.com - a full service U.S. immigration law firm representing employers and individuals nationwide for over 20 years. You can also follow this author on social media via Facebook and on Twitter @BuchananVisaLaw .

    Updated 09-24-2014 at 02:14 PM by BBuchanan

  3. Hotel Chain Pays $1.95 Million for Undocumented Workers

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    Grand America Hotels and Resorts, a subsidiary of the Sinclair Services Company, will forfeit $1.95 million for hiring unauthorized workers pursuant to a non-prosecution agreement between the company, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

    In reaching this agreement, the company will avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for its full cooperation and remedial action in the wake of HSI's investigation into the hiring practices at its hotel and resort properties in Arizona, California, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.

    According to facts set forth in the agreement, several lower-level Grand America employees and mid-level managers conspired to re-hire unauthorized workers despite an ICE audit of I-9 forms that began in September 2010. A year later, ICE-HSI issued a Notice of Suspect Documents to Grand America stating that 133 employees were not authorized to work in the United States. After the Notice, the employees could not produce documentation that they were authorized to work. The company was issued a warning notice and Grand America informed HSI that it had terminated the employees.

    However, HSI later discovered that the conspirators created three temporary employment agencies or “shell companies” between August 2011 and October 2011, to re-hire 43 of the unauthorized workers. The agreement says most of the workers returned to work using different names and fraudulent identity documents.

    In addition to forfeiting $1.95 million to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Grand America will be required to take substantial remedial measures, which could cost up to $500,000 to implement. Such measures include: adopting new corporate policies to comply with immigration law; incorporating immigration law compliance clauses into the company’s labor service contracts; re-training human resources employees on I-9 compliance procedures; and agreeing to continue using E-Verify in the hiring of new employees. Grand America also agreed to retain immigration counsel to advise the company regarding hiring and immigration procedures.

    Grand America avoided criminal prosecution and fully cooperated with HSI’s investigation. Prosecutors said the company handed over all incriminating evidence it obtained through its own internal investigation, and fired the managers who were involved in the conspiracy. The government will seek to prosecute the conspirators separately.

    This news is a reminder to employers of the wealth of remedies available to ICE-HSI for immigration violations.

    Updated 09-16-2014 at 01:30 PM by BBuchanan

  4. U.S. Government Sues its Cleaning Service for I-9 Violations

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    The Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) just published its decision in United States v. Clean Sweep Janitor Service. OCAHO reduced Clean Sweep’s fines from $12,623 to $6,750.

    It all began with an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE) into Clean Sweep, the janitorial service it paid to clean its own offices for over a decade. The company also apparently cleaned EOIR’s offices until, Clean Sweep says, they lost their cleaning contract with both agencies “to an unlicensed contractor that pays employees under the table” and underbid Clean Sweep “by forty percent.”

    According to the complaint, Clean Sweep is a woman-owned small family business located in Alpine, California. With only 10 active employees, it has cleaned the offices of a long list of other federal agencies including IRS, SSA, and DEA.

    ICE’s investigation failed to find any unauthorized workers at Clean Sweep, but found that the company failed to prepare I-9 Forms for 15 current or former employees. ICE sought an adjusted penalty of $12,623 which Clean Sweep felt was excessive and would be a “devastating financial blow” to the company.

    In assessing the final penalty amount, OCAHO looks to 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(e)(5) and must consider the following factors:

    1) the size of the employer’s business;
    2) the employer’s good faith;
    3) the seriousness of the violations;
    4) whether or not the individual was an unauthorized alien; and
    5) the employer’s history of previous violations.

    Factors in favor of Clean Sweep were that the company had no history of previous violations, there were no unauthorized workers found, and as a small business it should benefit from the general public policy of leniency to small entities set forth in the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.

    OCAHO fined Clean Sweep $6,750 for its failure to prepare I-9s for 15 employees, stating that it regards this offense as one of the “most serious violations because it completely subverts the purpose of the employment verification requirements.”

    A copy of the decision is available here. Cite as U.S. v. Clean Sweep Janitor Service, 11 OCAHO no. 1226


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Size:  2.9 KB ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Buchanan is an attorney with the law firm of Siskind Susser P.C. - www.visalaw.com - a full service U.S. immigration law firm representing employers and individuals nationwide for over 20 years. You can also follow this author on social media via Facebook and on Twitter @BuchananVisaLaw .
  5. OSC Settles Immigration Claim against Charter Bus Company

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), within the Justice Department, has reached a settlement with MCA Transportation, a charter bus operator headquartered in Orlando, Florida. The settlement resolves a claim by one of MCA’s employees that the company engaged in citizenship discrimination during the employment eligibility verification process in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    The employee who made the complaint was a work-authorized asylee and alleged that MCA requested more or different documents from him than were necessary for the Form I-9. After OSC conducted an investigation, it found there was reasonable cause to believe MCA committed an “unfair documentary practice” in violation of the INA by requesting “more or different employment eligibility verification documents than are necessary on the basis of citizenship status”.

    The INA’s anti-discrimination provision specifically prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on work-authorized employees during the hiring and employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status or national origin.

    As part of the settlement agreement, MCA will only pay $660.00 in civil penalties to the United States, but for the next three (3) years the company will be required to do the following:

    1) Advise OSC of any changes in the company’s employment policies as they relate to nondiscrimination on the basis of citizenship status and national origin at least thirty (30) days prior to the effective date of such revised policies;

    2) Ensure that all individuals who are responsible for formulating, carrying out, and/or conducting training on MCA's hiring, firing, equal employment, and employment eligibility verification policies, including all managers and employees who have any role making employment eligibility decisions, such as completing the Form I-9 and/or using the E-Verify system ("Verifying Personnel"), are in possession of the most current version of the Form I-9, USCIS Employment Eligibility Verification Handbook for Employers and the most current USCIS E-Verify Manual; and

    3) Send all new Verifying Personnel to attend an Office of Special Counsel Employer/HR webinar within sixty (60) days of hire or promotion.

    This case is a great example why any employer, large or small, would be wise to have an I-9 Compliance Policy in place and consult periodically with an immigration compliance attorney. Be sure to read my prior blog post on Employment of Asylees and Refugees at: http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?7994-...Siskind-Susser

    A copy of the MCA settlement agreement can be viewed here.

    Updated 09-10-2014 at 05:19 PM by BBuchanan

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