By the end of 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) efforts in I-9 audits broke previous records: it inspected more than 3,000 businesses for I-9 employment eligibility verification compliance and issued nearly $13 million in fines. To put these numbers into perspective, ICE conducted only 250 workplace compliance audits in 2007; 503 in 2008; 1,444 in 2009; 2,000 in 2010; and 2,496 in 2011. ICE has offices in all 50 states and employs more than 20,000 people.
Immigration law (8 U.S.C. § 1324a (b)) requires employers to verify the employment eligibility of each employee by completing and maintaining Form I-9. ICE can audit any company on a random basis or following a lead from the public, other companies, or employees at the workplace. The inspection process is initiated by issuance of a Notice of Inspection (NOI), which compels the employer to provide its Forms I-9 for inspection. Violating employers may receive civil and even criminal penalties, the latter applying to those who knowingly hire and continue to employ illegal immigrants.
The official purpose of the ICE audits is to promote immigration compliance. However, many employers are fined for poor record keeping rather than for breaking immigration laws. Hence, good record keeping practices are essential to staying clear of fines. The Jackson Lewis Immigration Group is experienced in helping employers to create and implement employee I-9 verification procedures and programs that meet ICE standards.