In late 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Thomas Homan announced plans for the agency to dramatically increase worksite enforcement at US employers. While Director Homan may have recently announced his retirement, ICE data corroborates the notion that heightened enforcement is here to stay.
Worksite investigations have increased significantly this fiscal year, with twice as many conducted so far when compared with the whole prior fiscal year. I-9 audits are also up significantly, as well as criminal and administrative worksite-related arrests.
Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, all US employees must complete Form I-9 to verify employment authorization, which is essential to ensure employers maintain proper compliance. While failure to properly complete the I-9 can result in fines and even criminal penalties, employers must also be cautious to avoid discriminating against individuals based on national origin, citizenship, or immigration status in determining I-9 renewals.
ICE’s efforts at monitoring compliance are not, however, limited to Form I-9 violations. Many employers also use the E-Verify system as part of onboarding to verify an individual’s employment eligibility. Some states actually require employer enrollment in E-Verify, while other employers merely participate in order to hire certain foreign nationals studying in the United States.
While the current administration has indicated its desire to mandate use of E-Verify for all employers nationwide, EIG always advises employers to prioritize ensuring compliance with I-9 and E-Verify regulations. There are a number of affirmative steps that can be taken in advance of government action, such as conducting internal I-9 audits and effectively training onboarding teams on up-to-date I-9 requirements. EIG remains ready and available to assist in developing preparation strategies for possible enforcement action.