The Obama administration has intensified a crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants, notifying over 1,000 companies recently that the government plans to inspect their hiring records. Employers of all sizes were notified they must hand over I-9 employment-eligibility forms, which contain Social Security numbers, dates of birth and statements by employees of their citizenship status.
The U.S. is home to about 11 million illegal immigrants; reportedly two-thirds participate in the labor force, typically use a made-up Social Security Number or the identity of a legal U.S. resident or citizen. The audits, affecting such businesses as food production, construction, produce growers, cargo handlers and fast-food chains, result in the firing of every illegal immigrant found on a company's payroll.
For employers, the audits can lead to both civil and criminal penalties. The possibilities range from fines and being barred from competing for government contracts to criminal charges of knowingly employing illegal workers, evading taxes and engaging in identity theft.
All companies should do "proactive I-9 inspections" to ensure their work force is legal. Legislation was passed to make mandatory the use of E-Verify, an electronic database run by the government, which checks the work-eligibility of hires. However, the fact that you participate in E-Verify doesn't mean you won't be audited.
Why should employers conduct regular I-9 internal audits?
Employers who fail to fully comply with IRCA employment eligibility verification (EEV) and Form I-9 compliance face significant legal, financial and public relations risks. Non-compliance, whether intentional or simply caused by oversight, has severe consequences imposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its enforcement agency Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). But DHS enforcement is only the tip of the liability iceberg.
An employer's executives, managers and supervisors can face individual criminal liability for certain of the company's I-9 and EEV violations. These same employer personnel incur similar liability for certain of the company's independent contractor's or subcontractor's I-9 violations. Criminal liability means risk of imprisonment.
Every employer should develop and implement an I-9 internal audit program. We can help you design an I-9 program for your company. Basic internal audit considerations include reviewing a meaningful sample, or all, of the employer's I-9 Forms. This review should key on some particular problems that often arise with regard to proper completion of the I-9 forms.
BoltNagi immigration attorneys help employers with completing I-9s, training company staff with properly completing I-9s, reviewing I-9 practices, internal I-9 audits and compliance practice reviews, and writing company policies and manuals for instituting uniform I-9 practices. Avoid I-9 liability, civil fines, criminal arrests, prosecution and convictions, asset forfeiture, and potential treble damages from competitors.
Unfortunately, most employers are unaware that they have a problem with Form I-9 employment eligibility verification (EEV) requirements until they are audited by governmental authorities. By that time, it is generally too late to undo the damage in order to avoid civil penalties and potentially criminal penalties for management should contact BoltNagi.
Ashley D. Dworsky , Esq. is Of Counsel with BoltNagi PC and handles all areas of immigration law, with an emphasis on business and family immigration and visa law. BoltNagi PC is a full service business law firm located on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.