It was announced back in October that the Trump Administration had plans to escalate the number of raids on employers who employ undocumented workers. The raids, conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often happen on a moment’s notice.
Acting ICE director Tom Homan had advised that raids were likely to quintuple in 2018, with targets not only being undocumented workers, but the places that employ them. The result? Potential criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers in addition to prosecution of the workers themselves.
The administration has been true to its word. ICE agents arrested 22 criminal aliens and immigration violators in Illinois’ Cook and Lake counties during a three-day enforcement action this month. ICE raids also were conducted on 98 7-Eleven convenience stores in 17 states that resulted in 21 arrests.
ICE also has issued a worksite enforcement statement to employers.
States like California have been proactive in protecting undocumented workers; A new law went into effect in January that prevents federal immigration agents from entering employer premises without a warrant. The law also prevents employers from having to produce I-9 forms and employee records without ICE providing a court order. Employers that receive an ICE Notice of Inspection must provide employees a 72-hour notice. Employees can also receive a copy upon request.
The results of an ICE enforcement action can be costly.
A settlement last September between ICE and a tree pruning company that was caught employing illegal immigrants cost that company $95 million. For California companies not complying with the new state law, fines can be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per violation.
It’s best to prepare now for what can lie ahead.
As an employer, the first step is to prepare your staff on what to do in the event of an ICE raid. Have an attorney readily available who can review any documentation that ICE should provide, and be prepared to present documents of your own—especially I-9 forms.
The next step is to ensure all I-9 forms are completed, correct, and handy. These forms are vital to you and your workers’ protection. If you notice mistakes, correct them and document the actions you took to correct the I-9 forms. Do not backdate forms to reflect corrections. Backdating I-9 forms is against the law and can land you even more trouble.
After you have inspected Form I-9 and the accompanying documentation, you must keep the document on file for at least three years from the date of hiring the employee to one year after an employee leaves your business, whichever is later. While Form I-9 is not filed with a government agency, it must be available for inspection by the U.S. departments of Homeland Security, Labor, or Justice. It makes sense to keep your I-9 forms in a central location so they can be easily accessed if a government inspection occurs. Consider digitizing these forms and storing them in the cloud using a software like Humanefits.
Finally, make immigration compliance a priority for your team. Ensure that you have the right policies and procedures in place to address employment practices that can avoid hiring illegal immigrants. Failure to do so could be costly for your business.