All U.S. employers are required to comply with the Form I-9 employment verification regulations, but unless they have run afoul of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations, many may not be aware of the current status of Form I-9 enforcement.
However, recent testimony from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano sheds light on the increasingly strict enforcement procedures of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Her testimony highlights the importance of maintaining a compliant employment eligibility program.
DHS has continued its approach of focusing on organizations that hire unauthorized workers through the use of ‘silent raids.’ Employers that are suspected of hiring unauthorized workers are targeted for auditing of their I-9 forms.
However, employers must not only verify the identity and work authorization of its workers, but they must also ensure that the Form I-9 is completed correctly. There are many common Form I-9 mistakes that employers make that lead to steep penalties, even if the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. Therefore, it is more important than ever that employers maintain a compliant Form I-9 process to help prevent penalties.
ICE has conducted the following Form I-9 enforcement activities since Fiscal Year 2009:
- More than 6,000 audits of employer’s Form I-9 programs.
- Debarred 441 companies and individuals from receiving federal contracts.
- More than $76 million in financial sanctions.
- In Fiscal Year 2011, ICE criminally arrested 221 employers.
With increased focus on compliance with employment eligibility regulations, many employers have also adopted E-Verify. While E-Verify is a voluntary program for many organizations, it is a requirement in several states, counties, local municipalities and for all federal contractors. E-Verify provides added protection from hiring unauthorized workers.
E-Verify trends during Fiscal Year 2011:
- As of Fiscal Year 2011, more than 292,000 employers have enrolled in E-Verify.
- More than 1,000 employers enroll each week.
- In Fiscal Year 2011, E-Verify processed 17.4 million employment queries.
As is clear from the DHS Secretary’s testimony and the penalties that ICE has implemented, all employers need to ensure that they have a compliant employment eligibility program in place.
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Effectively Managing I-9 Employment Eligibility in the Face of Changing Legislation