ICE to Ramp Up Workplace Inspections – Are Your I-9s in Order?

Throughout 2017, President Trump has signed a series of executive orders that promise to strictly enforce existing immigration laws. Pursuant to these orders, the Department of Homeland Security, which encompasses U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has increased unannounced worksite visits. Recent statements from a top ICE official indicate that the frequency of these site visits will soon increase.

US Customs and Border Protection

During an address to the Heritage Foundation, Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan stated that he has directed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), to potentially quadruple worksite enforcement actions within the next year. This follows a significant increase of worksite investigations by HSI, the stated focus of which is to curtail the employment of undocumented immigrants. “We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan elaborated.

Currently, ICE’s official policy for HSI investigations is unchanged from the Obama Administration, which prioritizes targeting employers that use undocumented labor as a business model, engage in human smuggling, mistreat employees, commit identity fraud, launder money, or are otherwise involved in criminal activity. In practice, an HSI workplace inspection is not limited to only these issues.

ICE also conducts audits of Forms I-9 to ensure that workers have the appropriate employment authorization. Employers who have taken steps to ensure their workforce is lawfully authorized to work in the United States may still face penalties stemming from an ICE audit. Omissions and errors on I-9s can result in administrative sanctions, civil penalties, and fines ranging from $110 to $1,100 for each violation. Employers could find themselves sanctioned or fined for seemingly minor errors such as missing information, failure to check boxes, or untimely completion of the form.

Given this increased risk, employers of foreign nationals should take steps to ensure they are in full compliance with immigration documentation requirements. A proactive audit of your I-9 files is the best way to avoid penalties in the event of an ICE site visit. We would be happy to conduct a thorough audit of your I-9 documents at your offices to ensure your business complies with federal law. Please contact us at (617) 720-5855 to discuss the process and schedule an audit.

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