If your organization isn’t keeping I-9 records for all of your active workforce, you may have a problem if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes to audit your organization. The likelihood of an audit has increased with the renewed emphasis on worksite enforcement by ICE as part of the continued focus on immigration issues under President Trump’s administration.

Organizations across the country are regularly facing ICE enforcement. In Allen, Texas, CVE Technology Group Inc. and four of its related staffing companies underwent investigation resulting in the arrest of 280 company employees, the largest ICE worksite operation in 10 years. The arrest of the undocumented employees stemmed from an audit of the company’s I-9 forms, conducted earlier this year, which identified hiring irregularities, according to an article by NBC.

Worksite enforcement by ICE increased significantly between the FY2018 and FY2017. The federal agency’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit opened 6,848 worksite investigations compared to 1,691 in FY17. More than 5,980 I-9 audits were initiated compared to 1,360 in FY2017. HSI made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 139 and 172, respectively, in FY2017.

That enforcement is expected to continue. The White House’s 2020 Fiscal Year budget proposes to spend more on ICE’s enforcement activities, including I-9 enforcement. Some of the highlights include:

  1. An additional 15,000 new DHS law enforcement officers
  2. 600 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration court prosecuting attorneys
  3. Mandatory nationwide use of E-Verify for I-9

While the chances of the President’s proposed budget passing intact when reviewed by a Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is slim, the budget provides insight into the continued focus on immigration by the Trump White House, including a focus on I-9 verification.

With ICE raids continuing, and penalties for violation of I-9 compliance ranging as high as $2,156 per case, organizations should adhere to these tips to prepare themselves and their employees:

  • Understand your rights during an ICE worksite audit, including that they must be initiated by service of a Notice of Inspection or pursuant to a valid warrant. Have a lawyer on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • Make sure every employee I-9 form is correct, completed, and up to date. Have the forms organized and readily available.
  • Utilize the E-Verify platform, a service that shows the eligibility of workers in the United States.
  • Have every employee complete the most recent I-9 form as of October 21, 2019.
  • With new hires, strictly enforce a three-day rule to complete the I-9 form.
  • Conduct your own random checks on I-9 forms and employee verification.

As ICE continues with its enforcement, make sure you are taking the right steps in ensuring your organization is not at risk of an I-9 fine. Employers should keep focused on the possibility of ICE raids and be sure they are prepared and continue to watch for more I-9 updates as they are released.

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