ICE Steps Up Enforcement
On Wednesday, January 10, 2018 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents paid a pre-dawn visit to approximately 100 nationwide 7-eleven stores. The operation opened audit investigations and interviewed workers to ensure employment of individuals was compliant with federal regulations. Agents arrested 21 employees suspected of being in the country illegally.
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” said Thomas D. Homan, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director. “Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
Derek Benner, the acting head ICE’s Homeland Security investigations told Associated Press that this was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers. He said there would be more employment audits and investigations, though there is no numerical goal.
“This is what we’re gearing up for this year and what you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters. From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation,” said Benner. “It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small,” he said. “It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”
“We need to make sure that employers are on notice that we are going to come out and ensure that they’re being compliant,” Benner said “For those that don’t, we’re going to take some very aggressive steps in terms of criminal investigations to make sure that we address them and hold them accountable.”
What Does This Mean for Your Operations?
- I-9 Form compliance is critical
- Ensure policies and processes are set to ensure compliance
- Train those who handle I-9 Forms
- Conduct audits of your documents and consider engaging an outside expert
- Have a plan for response if you are audited
From the ICE website https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/worksite-enforcement-targets-employment-law-violators: “Employers who are seeking assistance with ensuring their companies are compliant can seek Department of Homeland Security (DHS) certification through the IMAGE program. Participants have pledged to maintain a secure and stable workforce, including outreach and education designed to prevent unlawful hiring practices. After first completing a self-assessment questionnaire, employers must enroll in the DHS E-Verify program, establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy and submit to a company-wide form I-9 inspection. As of Sept. 1, 2017, there were 114 charter members; four endorsees, which are associations who promote IMAGE requirements to their members; 287 certified members (certified after 2011); and 183 companies who have signed agreements and are in the process of becoming certified members.”