On July 24, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release confirming that its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division had completed the second phase of a nationwide operation from July 16-20. HSI served 2,738 I-9 Notices of Inspection (NOIs[1]) to US businesses around the country after serving 2450 during its first phase earlier this year. In sum, HSI has now issued almost 5200 NOIs since the beginning of October 2017. Not only this, but HSI also has made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests. These numbers clearly indicate that ICE takes worksite enforcement very seriously and companies should prioritize a commitment to compliance. Fines for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers start at $559 per employee and can be as high as $22,363 for repeated offenses. Paperwork violations range from $224 to $2236. Companies may also face additional fines, penalties and forfeitures, and government contractors may face debarment from federal contracts.

In ICE’s press release, HSI reminded employers about its “three-pronged approach to worksite enforcement: compliance, form I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment; enforcement, through the criminal arrest of employers and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and outreach, through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.”

These events have been expected and actually follow prior comments by HSI officials that we previously reported, confirming that 2018 will be a year of increased immigration enforcement.

Continue Reading Baby It’s Cold Outside: ICE I-9 Audits Increase Over 100 Percent

By Dawn M. Lurie and Alexander Madrak

True to its word, last week Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents issued Notices of Inspection (NOIs) at seventy-seven Northern California businesses. ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents spread out across northern California, serving NOIs in Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose at the end of January. No employees or employers were arrested at the time; instead, HSI agents notified businesses that they are being audited and provided seventy-two hours to produce their employees’ Forms I-9, Employment Eligibility Verifications.

The worksite actions follow ICE’s Deputy Director Thomas Homan’s comments that ICE would increase its activities in California after designating itself an official sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants following the passage of AB 450. With Homan’s nomination to be the Director of ICE, these and other comments by Homan indicate ICE may very well follow through on its promises—both that enforcement will increase by “four to five times” this year and that California may bear a disproportionate brunt of the action.

Employers across industries should proactively prioritize addressing immigration compliance by:

  1. conducting careful internal assessments;
  2. conducting Form I-9 audits (with the assistance of competent counsel);
  3. reviewing and/or establishing procedures to ensure employees are prepared to deal with visits from ICE;
  4. creating and updating immigration compliance polices; and,
  5. providing training and resources in order to ensure the Form I-9 process is captured correctly.

Prioritizing immigration compliance today will prevent problems and minimize exposure tomorrow.

Seyfarth Synopsis: As the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the administration generally, signals increases in immigration enforcement activity, businesses are advised to implement clear protocols for the conduct of key personnel in the event of a visit by a federal officer, particularly Special Agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).   This guidance identifies the likely purposes of an ICE visit and sets forth critical steps for key personnel should such a visit occur.  Businesses are advised to work with legal counsel to tailor this general guidance to their specific industry and business processes.

In light of the Trump Administration’s promises of increased immigration enforcement, employers and employees are growing more concerned about the prospect of government worksite visits either to effectuate arrests or to conduct investigations and audits.  To be clear, the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (“ICE”) agency has clarified that there has been no directive to initiate worksite enforcement (aka raids) against employers. Notwithstanding, it does appear that recent ICE arrests have swept not only individuals either alleged to have committed a crime or for whom an immigration warrant is outstanding, but also others accompanying the intended arrestee who are found to lack legal status in the U.S.

In addition to arrests, other investigative and audit activity looms on the horizon. Chatter continues about a possible increase in Form I-9 audits by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Unit (HSI), and similar activity by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Detection National Security Unit [1] as well as it’s E-Verify Monitoring and Compliance branch [2]. Additionally, the Department of Justice’s newly named Employee and Immigrant Rights Office (legacy Office of Special Counsel), will continue to pursue investigations into citizenship, national origin discrimination and document abuse matters. This Alert focuses on a visit by the folks at HSI, a separate Alert will be focused on USCIS site visits and investigative visits by other agencies.

Continue Reading Quick Guidance: What To Do In The Event of a Visit By The DHS-ICE Agents