Employers who usually search for certain qualities such as intelligence, experience, and a strong work ethic when considering a candidate for a job opening should add one more quality to the top of the list – Is the applicant legally eligible to work in the United States?
On July 1, 2009 – just before the long hot Fourth of July holiday weekend – the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent chills up the spines of many U.S. employers by issuing Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to 652 businesses nationwide to determine whether or not they were complying with Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form regulations.
Employers are required to complete and retain an Employment Eligibility Verification Form – also known as an “I-9 Form” – for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This form requires employers to review and record the individual’s identity document or documents and determine whether the documents reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual.
The large amount of notices – ICE issued 503 similar notices throughout all of fiscal year 2008 – illustrates ICE’s increased focus on holding employers accountable for their hiring practices, Form I-9 compliance, and efforts to ensure a legal workforce. Form I-9 audits are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to enforce employment and immigration laws.
Recently, ICE implemented a new, comprehensive strategy to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation’s lawful workforce. Under this strategy, ICE is focusing resources on the auditing and investigation of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers.
Company Forfeits $1.3 Million To ICE For Hiring Illegal Aliens
For employers who need more proof that the government is cracking down on companies that hire illegal workers, a recent announcement that a doughnut company based in Houston, Texas forfeited over $1.3 million to ICE for harboring illegal aliens should provide ample warning for companies not compliant with current I-9 Form regulations.
According to a press release from ICE, Shipley Do-Nut Flour and Supply Company Inc. was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $250,000 and forfeit $1.334 million to the government after the company – through its president – pleaded guilty to conspiring to harbor illegal aliens in September 2008.
The doughnut company’s president, two warehouse managers, and a warehouse supervisor – who all had authority to make managerial decisions for the company – also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of hiring or continuing to hire illegal aliens, and all four men were sentenced to six months probation and received fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000, the press release reports.
In April 2008, after a thorough review and analysis of the company’s I-9 forms, ICE agents arrested 27 illegal aliens employed by the company, and also recovered 42 No-Match letters sent by the Social Security Administration (SSA) which placed the company on notice that the illegal aliens did not have valid Social Security numbers.
Business Raided By ICE Faces Felony Charges Over Illegal Workers
In yet another warning to U.S. employers about how the government is focusing less on workplace raids targeting illegal workers and more on the employers who hire them, a story in The Bellingham (WA) Herald reports that two employees from a Bellingham, Washington business raided by ICE officers earlier this year are facing felony charges related to employing illegal workers.
Officers from ICE raided Yamato Engine Specialists on February 24, 2009 – the first work-site raid of the Obama administration – and detained 28 illegal workers, most of whom were later given papers to work legally in the U.S. in exchange for cooperating with the investigation.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, two Yamato employees were charged with knowingly allowing illegal workers to use fake documents and the company was charged with encouraging an illegal immigrant to live in the United States. If found guilty, the penalty is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the story reported.
Automated, Error-Free I-9 Compliance with E-Verify
U.S. employers who want to avoid fine and penalties like the ones placed on these companies for hiring illegal aliens should implement a program that ensures I-9 form compliance. The E-Verify system – a Web-based system that allows employers to check employment information submitted by workers like Social Security numbers against government databases – can help employers avoid government audits.
A designated E-Verify agent, I-9Compliance.com – a service offered by leading pre-employment screening provider Pre-Employ.com – helps employers maintain full Form I-9/E-Verify compliance, reduce risks, eliminate errors, and improve the economy by ensuring jobs for legal Americans.