U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced yesterday here that it is issuing Notices of Investigation (NOIs) to 1,000 employers across the nation.
What Does This Mean?
The NOIs alert employers that ICE will audit their hiring records to determine compliance with employment eligibility requirements, including I-9s. According to ICE, the 1,000 employers were selected based on “investigative leads and intelligence” and whether they are in some way linked to “public safety and national security.”
“ICE is focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces,” said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. “We are increasing criminal and civil enforcement of immigration-related employment laws and imposing smart, tough employer sanctions to even the playing field for employers who play by the rules.”
In April, ICE announced a new, more aggressive enforcement strategy, with audits as the focal point. Here are some rather sobering statistics regarding ICE activity since then:
- 45 businesses and 47 individuals have been debarred (compared to 0 businesses and 1 individual the previous year);
- 142 Notices of Intent to Fine (NIF) have been issued totaling $15,865,181 (more than quadruple the number of NIFs the prior year);
- 45 Final Orders have been issued totaling $798,179; (more than quadruple the prior year); and
- 1,897 cases have been initiated (more than triple the prior year).
In July, ICE issued 654 NOIs to businesses nationwide in its largest sweep prior to this new effort. Here are some statistics related to those NOIs:
- ICE agents reviewed more than 85,000 I-9s and found more than 14,000 suspect documents — roughly 16 percent of the documents reviewed.
- 61 NIFs have been issued, resulting in $2,310,255 in fines. An additional 267 cases are currently being considered for NIFs.
What Should Employers Do?
- Follow the law — ensure that all I-9s and supporting documentation are properly filled out and maintained.
- Don’t wait for ICE — audit yourself and take corrective action on any incomplete or defective I-9s in line with ICE and EEOC guidelines.
- If you get a notice — respond promptly (or seek an extension if you need one). Refrain from tampering with any documents. Keep copies of everything you submit to ICE.