U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has developed, and is implementing, a worksite enforcement program, wherein officers prosecute and fine employers for violations of employment and immigration laws. Instead of complying with the laws by implementing immigration plans, policies, and procedures, many employers choose to believe certain myths for peace of mind. Below is a quick list of those myths and an explanation as to why they should not be trusted.
1. "My company is not the type of company ICE is investigating." Most business owners tend to think since they are not conducting business within the traditional targeted industries, such as the construction or restaurant industries, they are not on ICE's radar. This is false. Ask yourself, "Am I an employer?" If yes, then you are on the radar. We have seen worksite enforcement cases dealing with warehouses, hotels, car washes, IT companies, retail clothing stores, food processing plants, restaurants, golf courses, and many more.
2. "ICE has already visited our company; they will not be back." In fact, the opposite is typically true. If ICE has visited your company before, they will be back to make sure you are in compliance. Over and over again we are seeing companies in the news who were visited by ICE at one point. They promised to comply with whatever immigration violation was occurring, did not comply with immigration regulations (either by not firing the undocumented workers or by rehiring them), and have immigration compliance in total disarray when ICE shows back up two years later. Sometimes ICE does not come back for decades, and the company is still on the hook.
3. "My company is too small for ICE to care about who I hire." Whether your company is a big fish or small fish, ICE will fry you up and dip you in tartar sauce. ICE targets any and all employers, regardless of size. In fact, we have written about ICE investigations that have nearly crippled some small companies due to fines and jail time for the employers.
4. "I am just the human resources (HR) manager doing what I was told. I cannot get into trouble." Middle Management/Supervisors are just as accountable as the owner of the business for immigration violations! Prosecutors do not discriminate between pay grades when handing out criminal indictments; responsibility is distributed evenly, and sometimes, more heavily onto middle management.
In one case, Danny's Family Car Wash, the managers were allegedly hesitant to rehire the workers and Mr. Hendon pressured them, but they were still prosecuted. HR and other hiring personnel are usually not equipped with the right tools and knowledge to handle potential immigration violations, so it is not always obvious to them that their neck is on the line just like the owner's.
5. "Only companies who are hiring a bunch of unauthorized workers will get in trouble. Not me; I only hire one or two a year." Hiring one unauthorized worker is a violation of the regulations and is enough to trigger an investigation. Having just one unauthorized worker might not equal jail time for the employer, but it can mean the company will be fined.
6. "I did not know they were undocumented...I cannot be held liable." Most employers say this when confronted with the issue of hiring undocumented workers, and most of the time they are telling the truth. However, ICE's response to this is the employer would have known about their undocumented employees had they been following IRCA's employment verification system. The employer is held liable regardless of whether or not they actually knew the employee truly lacked work authorization.
These debunked myths should lead employers to one conclusion: Comply with immigration regulations before an investigation starts against your company. Implement immigration plans, policies, and procedures to ensure your company is in compliance.
What Should Employers do to Protect Themselves and their Managers/Supervisors
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