Employment Eligibility Enforcement Shifts to ‘Silent Raids’

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Employment eligibility enforcement has shifted from high-profile immigration raids at businesses to extensive audits of I-9 forms, according to a recent New York Times article. This new approach continues to target businesses that are suspected of hiring unauthorized workers, but now allows agents to reach more companies than the work site raids since “…Instead of hundreds of agents going after one company, now one agent can go after hundreds of companies.” These audits focus on identifying if employees are unauthorized and if companies are non-compliant, resulting in very steep penalties and fines being imposed on employers. Many employers refer to these audits as “silent raids.”

Enforcement activity has increased since the new administration took office. In fact, over the past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has conducted audits of I-9 forms at more than 2,900 companies, and so far this year, has levied a record $3 million in civil fines on businesses. This means businesses are bearing extensive consequences and penalties for not being aligned with employment eligibility verification processes and documentation.

As the government widens its scope on enforcement, more and more businesses are being targeted, and it’s never been more important to have processes and systems in place to ensure that the I-9 form and employment eligibility verification procedures and documentation are compliant. The best way to help ensure compliance is with an electronic I-9 form management solution as part of your employment screening program.

Interestingly, the Form I-9 audits are focused more on employers than employees. Agents comb through employee records and documentation for any incomplete or improper information which results in firing of employees. The audits penalize employers for every suspected unauthorized worker on the payroll, not just those who are working at the time of a raid, and they make it much harder to hire other unauthorized workers.

It’s critical that employers stay informed of the current local, state and federal laws and regulations governing employment eligibility verifications and ensure that all processes and documentation are properly completed, filed, managed, stored and updated. Many employers have found that an electronic I-9 form and E-Verify management solution can help by guiding users through required steps and documentation, based on current laws and regulations, to ensure that all records are complete, correct and updated. When updates, renewals or other actions are required to keep an employment record in compliance, these solutions issue alerts and reminders, providing an easy way for the organization to keep up with extensive ongoing regulations and ever-evolving laws.

The goal of the Form I-9 audits, according to ICE, “…is to create a ‘culture of compliance’ among employers, so that verifying new hires is as routine as paying taxes.” Government enforcement is cracking down and the consequences and penalties are substantial, but they are avoidable, as long as organizations put in processes and solutions that help maintain employment eligibility compliance.


The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any statutes or laws cited in this article should be read in their entirety. If you or your customers have questions concerning compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations, we suggest that you address these directly with your legal department or outside counsel.



HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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