November 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Last week, Ivan Hardt, president of Sun Drywall and Stucco in Sierra Vista, AZ, pleaded guilty to federal charges of hiring undocumented employees after a 16-month investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Sunday, November 6, 2011, marks 25 years that the I-9 Form has been in effect. The Sun Drywall & Stucco case reminds us not to ignore the simple fact that it is imperative to verify that I-9 forms are in compliance with the law, regulations, administrative decisions, and federal court opinions that have been issued over the last 25 years.
As part of his plea, the company president agreed to pay $225,000 in back wages and an additional administrative forfeiture of $225,000 to ICE. The company, through its president, also pleaded guilty to unlawful employment of undocumented workers.
Hardt’s sentence underscores the importance of I-9 compliance and the Department of Homeland Security’s ongoing concerted effort to target employers who hire undocumented workers and to shift the burden of policing undocumented workers onto U.S. employers.
In Janet Napolitano’s testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary on October 26, 2011, she reconfirmed that DHS will continue “utilizing robust Form I-9 inspections, civil fines and debarment, and enhancing compliance tools like E-Verify” as part of its interior enforcement strategy.
Under the Obama administration, ICE has conducted more I-9 audits than any previous administration. Since FY2009, ICE has audited more than 6,000 employers across the country and imposed more than $76 million in financial sanctions on those employers. In FY2011, ICE arrested 221 employers accused of immigration and employment related violations, which is an agency record.
Every employer must fill out the I-9 form for all employees. If you need an I-9 compliance program, an I-9 audit or an just update on how to complete I-9s, call us, it’s what we do! You can also contact us online at http://www.goffwilson.com.
September 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
Why should you care about a Subway restaurant in North Carolina and it’s trouble with I-9 forms? Well, from 2009 to the end of 2010, that Subway restaurant was the subject of an ICE investigation and faced fines of more than $110,000 for I-9 form violations.
In its filings, ICE alleged in Count I that the restaurant hired 11 named individuals from 2006 through Feb. 2009 and failed to ensure that those individuals properly completed section 1 of form I-9 and/or failed itself to properly complete section 2 or section 3 of the form. Count II alleged that the restaurant hired 85 named individuals between 2006 and Feb. 2009 for whom it failed to prepare or present I-9 forms at all.
Penalties were sought in the amount of $1,028.50 for each violation, or $31,883.50 for Count I and $87,422.50 for Count II for a total of $119,306.00.
In Dec. 2010, the Department of Justice, Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) issued a precedent decision that reduced the fine levied on the Subway restaurant for form I-9-related violations.
The initial fine was near the maximum amount permitted within the regulations that an employer can be fined. Although the administrative law judge acknowledged that the violations were serious, she reduced the fine after considering the company’s ability to pay and the general state of the economy (among the other five mitigating factors permitted by the statute).
The fine was reduced for Count I to $6,900 and for Count II to $21,250.00 for a total of $28,150, which is still substantial, but is not so “onerous that employees have to lose their jobs or employers are forced out of business.”
This decision is noteworthy due to the additional factors (the company’s ability to pay and the economy) that the judge used to mitigate the fine. This decision gives employers greater negotiating power when faced with fines from ICE for I-9-related violations.
This is another example of employers being held accountable for their workforce. It is noteworthy that in this case none of the bad I-9s were from unauthorized aliens. These are just the type of I-9 compliance issues GoffWilson can help your company with. Call (603.228.1277) or email us before you have any trouble with ICE.
October 19, 2009 § 1 Comment
It appears that the E-Verify program is here to stay – at least until 2012. Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the $44.1 billion Department of Homeland Security budget for fiscal year 2010 (HR 2892). Funding for E-Verify was set to run out at the end of this month, but the 307-114 vote extends funding for E-Verify through September 2012. The budget is expected to pass the Senate this week and will then be passed on to the President for signature.
If you have questions about E-Verify, the I-9 Form or your company’s compliance responsibilities, contact us.
September 3, 2009 § Leave a comment
Employers who have sponsored employees for H-1B visas should be aware that the Department of Homeland Security / U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been conducting random, unannounced, on-site inspections. Reports indicate that the USCIS Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program will visit 20,000 sites in an attempt to uncover fraud and abuses of the H-1B program.
It is our understanding that the investigations are being done by contracted workers (including former Immigration Customs and Enforcement officers and former USCIS adjudicators). These investigators may request to speak with company representatives and H-1B visa holders and review files in order to confirm that the employer is complying with the terms and conditions of the H-1B visa program.
Before there is a knock at the door, employers should make sure their files are well-maintained and accurate. Employers should also ensure that policies are in place instructing employees how to respond to the arrival of investigators.
In addition, government agencies do communicate with each other. Scrutiny by one government agency can encourage scrutiny by another. This is yet another reason to make sure your company’s I-9 forms are in order and that you have strong I-9 policies in place.
If an investigator knocks, or you need help developing the appropriate policies, GoffWilson can help.