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Expensive I-9s: Seaboard pays over $1 million to settle after an ICE Investigation

On November 7, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it has entered into a $1 million agreement to settle allegations of violations with the Seaboard Corporation based on alleged I-9/immigration and related violations.

Per ICE, “This case was investigated by special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Investigations.

Seaboard Corporation, which operates a pork production plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, through its subsidiary Seaboard Foods L.L.C., agreed on Nov. 1, 2018, to pay a total of $1,006,000. The settlement follows an investigation into allegations that the Guymon plant hired and employed unauthorized workers with respect to the time period 2007-2012 and failed to properly complete employment eligibility forms. Additionally, the investigation looked into allegations that healthcare claims for certain Seaboard employees, who were enrolled in a private health insurance plan provided by Seaboard, were improperly submitted to the Oklahoma Medicaid Program with respect to the same time period, 2007-2012.”

ICE Has Been Going After Employers

In 2017, ICE has announced that it would quadruple its efforts to enforce immigration law against employers.

Under federal law, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals they hire, and to document that information using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. Most employers are unaware that they are not in compliance with the law. If employers are not in compliance with the law, an ICE I-9 inspection of their business will likely result in civil fines and could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution, if they are knowingly violating the law. ICE uses a three-prong approach to conduct worksite enforcement: compliance through I-9 inspections and civil fines; enforcement through the criminal arrest of employers, including owners, CEOs, managers and supervisors, and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and use of compliance tools such as Best Practices/Image.

ICE Agent Does Not Come Alone

Our experience is that ICE often uses state agencies, such as state Departments of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, or Departments of Health or Revenue, to open the door into possible investigation of other violations. This is exactly what happened with Seaboard: ICE has cooperated with Oklahoma Medical Program in investigating the company.

Largest I-9 Related Loss: $95 Million – Asplundh Tree

In fiscal year 2017, ICE conducted 1,360 I-9 audits. An example of things not going well for employers includes the matter of Asplundh Tree Company, a business that was ordered to pay over $95 million in judicial forfeiture, fines and restitution and civil fines; some managers were criminally prosecuted:

What Should Employers Do?

The effective defense in I-9 investigations is correcting PRACTICES leading to violations. This includes establishing Corporate Immigration Compliance Plans, Policies and Procedures, training and appointing a Corporate Immigration Compliance Officer, Training I-9 administrators, and conducting an internal I-9 audit that results not only in corrections of I-9s, but in corrections of practices:

Training resources can be found HERE.

Business Immigration Lawyer

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is general information regarding law and policy that may be applicable to your particular HR issue or legal problem. Information provided in this blog, or any of our other public posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. For specific advice you can rely upon, please contact your attorney.

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