The Obama administration is launching another round of worksite investigations. ICE officials indicate approximately 500 employers have been visited during the past couple of days by Special Agents who have requested not only the employment verification forms (Forms I-9), but also evidence of the corporate structure, contracts with subcontractors and temporary employment agencies, and payroll records. Generally, businesses are required to make sure they are hiring only people who can legally work in the U.S.

As previously noted, the Obama administration’s worksite strategy differs from that of the Bush administration, which focused on high-profile raids that led to arrests of hundreds of workers at a single work site. ICE still conducts raids—they’re just “silent” now; requiring employers to terminate significant portions of their workforce without the grand mass arrests or flashy news releases. Because of criticism that the Administration was auditing only small businesses, larger employers that are being re-inspected have the most to lose.

Notices of Inspection (NOIs) instruct companies that they have three (3) days to present the Forms I-9 of their employees for inspection. ICE will review companies’ hiring records to determine whether they are complying with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). ICE continues to consider these inspections an important enforcement tool enforcement —especially in light of recent critical comments from Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), the current Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee . This initiative continues reflect a renewed department-wide focus in targeting employers involved in the hiring of unauthorized workers and related criminal activity.

What to do if you receive a Notice of Inspection (NOI)?

Receipt of a NOI should be taken very seriously without regard to the size of your company— especially if you have been targeted on more than one occasion. It is critical that you act immediately to secure a team of experienced compliance experts to guide you through the ICE inspection process. We recommend taking the following steps immediately upon receiving an NOI:

• Notify your management and executive teams
• Retain experienced immigration counsel
• Gather I-9s and supporting documentation
• Consider proactive compliance planning, where appropriate

Diligent employers must redouble their compliance efforts, and those who have not yet instituted compliance initiatives must undertake a comprehensive review of their records, policies and protocols.