Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted an I-9 audit on a Washington apple orchard and revealed the orchard employed more than 900 hundred individuals who likely did not have work authorization. The audit resulted in an agreement between the orchard and ICE that the orchard would not face criminal liability if they paid more than $2 million in civil fines for the I-9 issues.
Is this becoming the norm?
This settlement agreement is rare compared to other reported ICE investigations. Usually, employers end up with both civil and criminal penalties, especially in cases with hundreds of unauthorized workers. Citing its reason for not pursuing criminal punishment, the government representative said, “ICE weighs various factors when considering the appropriate penalty, including the interests of the community and local economy.” While it is refreshing for the government to admit that criminal punishments and closures of large employers can hurt communities and economies, the rarity of this type of settlement tells us that it is unlikely this will be the new normal with immigration noncompliance.
What Should Employers Be Doing?
Even if the ICE’s new goal is to only seek civil fines from employers, a $2 million bill is a lot for any company to pay. In order to avoid both the fines and possible criminal punishment, employers must have a correctly completed I-9 on each employee and an employment verification system in pace. The I-9s must be made available upon ICE’s request, so preparedness is key.
ICE Form I-9 audits are an easy way for ICE investigators to peer into your company’s hiring practices and determine whether or not your company is in violation. Through an audit, ICE investigators can learn everything they need to know about your company, which includes such things as whether or not your employees are authorized to work or whether or not you even attempted to comply with immigration regulations.
The best way to put your company in compliance is to begin training your hiring personnel on the correct way to complete a Form I-9. Additionally, at least one person should be trained as an immigration compliance officer so that the company has at least one person informed and implementing the plans, policies, and procedures for immigration compliance for the company.
Danielle Atchison, Business Immigration Attorney
MDIVANI CORPORATE IMMIGRATION LAW FIRM
7007 College Blvd., # 460, Overland Park, KS 66211 USA
Phone :: 913.317.6200
Email :: DAtchison@uslegalimmigration.com