Continuing its tough stance on immigration, the feds are drastically increasing employer audits beginning this summer. Audits are conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to ensure that employers verify their employees are eligible to work in the United States.
Most employers know they must obtain a fully-completed Form I-9 from each employee. After all, it’s long been the law to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all new employees and then document that information. During these audits, ICE inspects I-9 files to ensure compliance.
Recent ICE reports say the agency has developed a plan to increase audits to as many as 15,000 per year. The purpose is to create a so-called culture of compliance with immigration laws. It goes without saying that audits are a powerful tool to increase compliance. For employers, a negative audit finding can mean a civil fine, and in some circumstances, even criminal arrest. For undocumented employees, a failed audit likely means arrest and potential removal from the United States.
Already, the increase in audits and civil and criminal penalties is striking:
- Fiscal Oct 2016-17: 1,716 worksite investigations; fiscal 2017 to date: 3,510
- Fiscal Oct 2016-17: 1,390 Form 1-9 audits; fiscal 2017 to date: 2,282
- Fiscal Oct 2016-17: 139 criminal arrests; fiscal 2017 to date: 594
- Fiscal Oct 2016-17: 172 administrative arrests; fiscal 2017 to date: 610.
ICE tells us that employers should expect to be audited. As a result, then, business owners and HR professionals should assess compliance with federal immigration laws now, before ICE comes knocking.
If you have questions about employment-related immigration compliance, contact us.