U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents completed the second phase of employment record audits started in June, investigating more than 2,700 businesses and arresting 32 people.
ICE ‘s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) department announced that the first phase of the program, from January 29 to March 30, began with 2,540 Notices of Intent to audit (NOI) and yielded 61 arrests.
The second phase, from July 16 to 20, saw HSI agents serving 2,738 audit NOIs and arresting 32 individuals.
Employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all new hires, and to document that information using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. After getting an NOI an employer has three days to file I-9s.
According to the law firm FoleyHoag LLP, employers must produce Form I-9s and supporting documents, including payroll records, employee lists, articles of incorporation, and more.
If during audits, employers are found not to be in compliance they could face civil or criminal charges. Illegal immigrants discovered during these audits are subject to detention and deportation.
“This is not a victimless crime,” HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner said in a statement.
“Unauthorized workers often use stolen identities of legal U.S. workers, which can significantly impact the identity theft victim’s credit, medical records, and other aspects of their everyday life.”
ICE assessed $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines, and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines in fiscal 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2017.)
HSI uses inspections and civil penalties, criminal penalties, and outreach, to enforce U.S. employment laws.
According to an ICE press release, “ICE uses the I-9 inspection program to promote compliance with the law, part of a comprehensive strategy to address and deter illegal employment. Inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government uses to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws.”
Employers not in compliance—that is, employers found to be knowingly employing illegal aliens—face civil fines, and potential debarment from consideration for federal contracts.
According to FoleyHoag, even paperwork violations can cost an employer between $216 and $2,126 for each I-9. Penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ violations range from $375 to $16,000 per violation.
HSI can also criminally arrest employers and administratively arrest illegal workers. The workers won’t have criminal records but will likely be deported.
ICE is stepping up efforts to keep employers from providing a haven for illegal aliens.
Between Oct. 1, 2017 and May 4, 2018, HSI more than doubled the number of audits and arrests from all of fiscal 2017.
In fiscal year 2017, HSI opened 1,716 worksite investigations; initiated 1,360 I-9 audits; and made 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests related to worksite enforcement.
Between Oct. 1, 2017 and July 20, 2018, HSI opened 6,093 worksite investigations and made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests—almost triple the volume of fiscal 2017.
The final portion of the enforcement triad is outreach. ICE has created the IMAGE program—ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers—to keep employers clear and up to date on their requirements—and the risks of non-compliance.