ICE Director Delivers on Promise of Increased Enforcement
At a press conference in December, acting US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan announced that he would like to quadruple worksite enforcement: “I want to see a 400% increase in work site operations. We’re not just talking about arresting the aliens at these work sites, we are also talking about employers who knowingly hire people who are unauthorized to work.”
Earlier, in October, while speaking to the Heritage Foundation, Homan said he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative unit of ICE, to potentially quintuple worksite enforcement actions in 2018. He said he recently asked HSI to audit how much of their time is spent on work site enforcement then ordered that to increase "by four to five times."
Fast forward to January 2018, and you will recall the raid by federal immigration agents on 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 states across the nation. This resulted in 21 arrests. Beginning in late January, ICE confirmed that HSI special agents served "notices of inspections," or Form I-9 audit notices, to 77 businesses in Northern California and 120 businesses in the Los Angeles area. And just this week federal immigration agents began a series of immigration raids targeting some 400 people in Southern California.
ICE reported that it conducted 1,360 audits in 2017, which is actually down from their peak under President Obama in 2013, when 3,100 audits were conducted. The number of audits started decreasing when the Obama administration directed ICE to shift its focus to deporting individuals convicted of serious crimes. A 400% increase from 2017 would mean a goal of 5,440 audits, which is still a significant increase from 2013.
Upon receipt of a Form I-9 audit notice, businesses have three days to comply and could face possible fines and criminal prosecution. Most companies are employing people legally, but even simple errors on the Form I-9 can result in civil fines and criminal penalties.
With the increase in activity targeted by ICE Director Homan, there will likely be an impact to businesses in every state including employers who are trying to do everything right. Due to this environment of increased enforcement, it is prudent for employers to prepare themselves for an I-9 audit.
If you would like some information on common mistakes made on the Form I-9, please click the link for a PDF article: I-9 Compliance: Top 3 Mistakes.
Would you like to talk with someone about I-9 compliance or conducting an I-9 audit? Please contact our Human Resources team at (210) 495-8474.