I-9 Crackdown to Intensify with New ICE Audit OfficeThursday, January 20th, 2011
Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that ICE plans to intensify a crackdown on I-9 compliance deficiencies with the establishment of a new office that focuses on larger employers.
In an interview, John Morton, chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said the Employment Compliance Inspection Center would “address a need to conduct audits even of the largest employers with a very large number of employees.” The office would be announced Thursday, he said.
John Morton said that the center would be staffed with specialists who will pore over the I-9 employee files collected from companies targeted for audits.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2010, ICE conducted audits of more than 2,740 companies, nearly twice as many as the previous year. The agency levied a record $7 million in civil fines on businesses that had I-9 deficiencies.
In the past, enforcement activity during the Bush administration focused on high-profile raids in which thousands of illegal immigrants were arrested and placed in deportation proceedings. Relatively few companies and their executives were prosecuted.
In contrast, the Obama administration has made employers the center of its immigration policy. Critics say the policy has penalized small employers while failing to target larger employers.
John Morton said the new center would have the “express purpose” of providing support to regional immigration offices conducting large audits. “We wouldn’t be limited by the size of a company.”
Many employers don’t have the ability or proper understanding to police their workers. They end up in discrimination suits, as some companies have experienced, for demanding additional documents from workers whom they suspect are in the country illegally.
“Ultimately, it is in a company’s best financial interest to proactively comply with the law now rather than to face potential fines or criminal prosecution for noncompliance in the future,” an ICE spokeswoman said.
For employers seeking to self audit and make corrections to I-9 deficiencies – experienced attorneys can help employers implement best practices. Making technical corrections correctly is critical and so is getting it done in a timely manner.