“Hi, this is Kevin."
“Hi Kevin, it’s Sally at ABC Company. We need your help again. ICE Special Agents came by the worksite again today and delivered a Notice of Inspection for our Forms I-9 and supporting documents. They limited the inspection to the I-9s for active AND separated employees hired after their last inspection, but were sure to mention that they’re taking a look at our old mistakes to see if we’ve learned from the last time we were inspected . . .”
“Sure Sally. You’re not the first of our clients to be revisited by ICE. We’ve got the team in place, and we’re ready to get to work.”
Calls like this one will be increasing for immigration lawyers. The Obama administration is launching another round of worksite investigations—this time, returning to employers that have already been the subject of I-9 inspections during the last three years. Approximately 500 employers are being re-visited by Special Agents to confirm that noncompliant activity identified during prior reviews has been remedied, according to ICE.
Obviously, ICE offices has kept track of employers targeted for re-evaluation. ICE has not discussed any plans for the NOIs, but has confirmed that “the agency continues to be interested in egregious employers as they tend to break other laws in addition to immigration…including paying employees under the table, avoiding taxes and ignoring employee protections.” You do not need to have run afoul of the law before to feel ICE’s heat. The Obama administration has reimposed civil fines for paperwork and substantive violations, making Form I-9 errors an expensive problem even for first time infractions.
We expect additional ICE initiatives to continue throughout 2012 (it is an election year). Employers may consider contacting their Congressional representatives to revive interest in comprehensive immigration reform, to temper the need for tough enforcement efforts . For now,, diligent employers must redouble their compliance efforts, and those who have not yet started must focus their efforts on a comprehensive review of their records, policies and protocols.