With President Barack Obama’s inauguration and the start of his second term, the Administration is heralding yet another year of immigration compliance focused on sanctioning employers.  In recent remarks, the President stated that any immigration reform measures should contain penalties for companies that purposely hire undocumented workers.

The Administration’s focus on employer audits is not new.  Data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) highlight how audits have become key to the Administration’s compliance efforts and illustrate their success.  In fiscal year 2012, ICE audited the I-9 forms of 3,000 employers.  Only 250 employers were audited in fiscal year 2007.  Along with the audits, the fines ICE assessed rose to $13 million in fiscal year 2012 from $1 million in fiscal year 2009.  The median fine in fiscal year 2011 was $11,000.  Managers of companies have been targeted as well—238 managers have been arrested in fiscal year 2011.  See http://www.dhs.gov/dhs-progress-2011-smart-and-effective-enforcement

While it may appear that industries which historically have hired immigrants for manual labor have been targeted, the audits actually result from random selection as well as leads from the public, other employers, and employees.  Brad Bench, a special agent in charge at ICE’s Seattle office, stated, “Geography is not a factor.  The size of the company is not a factor.  And the industry it’s in is not a factor.  We can audit any company anywhere of any size.”  ICE has audited stores; restaurants; bakeries; dairies; farms; and companies involved in manufacturing, construction, food packaging, janitorial services, and catering.

Employers should complete their I-9 forms accurately and audit them internally on a regular basis.  If ICE audits an employer, these records will be at the focus of the audit.  The Jackson Lewis Immigration Practice Group can assist employers with any questions related to I-9 completion, verification, recordkeeping, and audits.