As the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of Department of Homeland Security announced in April 2009, the current focus in worksite enforcement is bringing criminal charges against employers and seizing their “illegally derived” assets.
Former Assistant Secretary of ICE, Julie Myers stated in an interview with the Washington Post, “If you’re blatantly violating our worksite enforcement laws, we’ll go after your Mercedes and your mansion and your millions. We’ll go after everything we can, and we’ll charge you criminally.”
In November of 2009, ICE opened audits of employment records at 1,000 companies around the country. These audits involve a comprehensive review of Form I-9s, which employers are required to complete and retain for each individual hired in the United States. I-9 forms require employers to review and record each individual’s identity and work eligibility documents and determine whether the documents reasonably appear to be genuine and related to that specific individual.
ICE has identified form I-9 audits as the most important administrative tool in building criminal cases and bringing employers into compliance with the law. Form I-9 audits may result in civil penalties and lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly violate the law.
With the new changes to the I-9 and increased worksite enforcement actions, completing and maintaining the I-9 form, once viewed as a simple HR function, has become more complicated and riddled with significant liability. Employers are well advised to conduct internal Form I-9 audits, organize Form I-9 trainings for human resource professionals charged with this critical internal function, and devise a corporate compliance program to reduce liability in the event of an audit and critical first steps for employers to follow when government agents arrive at the workplace.
Please refer to the Critical Resources for Employers in Form I-9 and Employer Compliance tab under the Worksite Enforcement tab on this website for more information.
The Law Office of Melissa Harms is pleased to offer internal I-9 audits for its clients. Additionally, we conduct on-site I-9 trainings and will soon be offering webinars on this subject. Please contact us at info at harms-law if you are interested in scheduling a training or audit at your company.