What’s hiding in your I-9 files? ICE is Committed to Significant Increase in Worksite Enforcement in 2018

Director Homan signals intent to aggressively target employers that employ illegals

Workplace immigration compliance is getting increased attention from the government and this year, enforcement actions are expected to be increased significantly. Recently, Acting Immigration and Customers Enforcement Director Thomas Homan has instructed Homeland Security Investigations to increase its time spent on work site enforcement by “four or five times” this year.  According to a recent CNN Article, when Direct Homan was recently asked whether his agency would do more to target not just undocumented workers but their places of work, Homan responded, “We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan promised, saying the goal is to remove the “magnet” drawing people to enter the US illegally.

What does increased enforcement mean for you and your business?

While not all employers sponsor foreign workers, all are required to comply with the I-9 requirements. Employers are being cautioned to review their I-9 forms to ensure they have one on file for each current employee. Forms for former employees must be retained for three years from their date of hire or for a year after terminating, whichever is longer. Not having a properly completed I-9 form can result in fines of $220 to $2,191 for each paperwork violation of an I-9, and $548 to $19,242 for each unauthorized worker employed.

Given the current heightened enforcement environment, employers should develop policies and procedures to ensure they stay in compliance. Employers should conduct an I-9 audit now, and have your employment records ready and up to date.

Need a copy of I-9 forms? Download them here > 

Homan signals an aggressive approach to I-9 enforcement

As reported by CNN, Director Homan said his agency would approach the task in a way that’s “a little different” than in the past, by going just as aggressively after employees. “Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers,” Homan said. “When we find you at a work site, we’re no longer going to turn our heads,” Homan elaborated after the event. “We’ll go after the employer who knowingly hires an illegal alien … but we’re always going to arrest a person who is here illegally. That is our job.”

Further, ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson said the department’s strategy “continues to address both” employers and employees” and will continue to focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.”

How do you know if your company is at risk?

  • I-9 Forms are completed and I-9 documentation is reviewed without attention to detail
  • Management is reluctant to question the authenticity of any I-9 documentation
  • Management allows employees to present new documentation inconsistent with original I-9 documentation without further inquiry
  • The company has received Social Security no-match letters and does not question employees regarding discrepancies or otherwise investigate
  • Management does not address rumors or complaints that there are unauthorized employees or unauthorized contractors
  • The pool of new hires comes mainly from the existing workforce including their friends and relatives
  • Hiring decisions are not subject to review and/or made by those that may be sympathetic to those desperately seeking employment or willing to hire for personal gain

What are the fines for incomplete or incorrect I-9 forms?

  • A company has 24 employees. 13 of the forms are incorrect as several are missing information; some have information written in the wrong places, some newer employees completed expired forms.  The violation percentage is 54%, but this is the first violation.The penalty assigned to this company would be 13 x $935 = $12,155!
  • A company has 86 employees. 22 of the forms are incorrect.  The violation percentage is 26% and this is a second violation.The penalties assigned to this company would be 22 x $750 = $16,500!
  • A company has 55 active employees and 8 employees that termed within the last year. 63 of the forms are either missing or incorrect.  The violation percentage is 100% and this is a first violation.The penalties assigned to this company would be 63 x $935 = $58,905.

What can employers do to prepare for an I-9 audit?

  • Conduct a preventative internal audit of the I-9 files to see if there is a pattern of violations requiring remediation. Such an audit should be conducted by, or under the close supervision of, a lawyer familiar with I-9 rules.
  • Establish a regular training program for human resource professionals regarding I-9 compliance rules.
  • Establish a uniform company policy regarding I-9s. Should copies of documents be retained or not? What kinds of questions can be asked about national origin and citizenship status before the date of hire? Is their uniformity in terms of when the employment verification is commenced?
  • Establish a re-verification reminder system to ensure I-9s are checked in a timely manner.
  • Centralize the I-9 Form record keeping process.
  • Establish a process for human resource professionals to check quickly with counsel when there are any problems in the verification process.

If you have questions about your I-9s, work with an experienced law firm

At WPD, we represent employers from diverse industries to develop effective I-9 policies and compliance programs. We also assist with company initiated I-9 audits to determine possible exposure, correct deficiencies, address I-9 issues, and develop effective training programs. In addition to proactive advice and guidance, we also provide assistance should employers be faced with a government I-9 audit or investigation.

Should you have any questions about I-9 Compliance, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847) 253-8800.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Business Immigration, Litigation and general Business Law services.  Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law.

This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.