Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have increasingly been conducting workplace raids that can have a significant impact on an employer and its workers. In a news release issued by ICE, seven companies have been notified that they will be considered for debarment from federal contracting because each of the companies has been found to be unlawfully employing persons without employment authorization.
Julie Myers, Homeland Security Assistant Security for ICE, indicated that by using debarment in appropriate circumstances, the federal government can avoid working with businesses that employ an illegal workforce. She commented in the news release that “debarment” is yet another tool that they believe will further ensure compliance with U.S. immigration employment laws.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) provide that contractors may be considered for debarment if they have been found to have either knowingly hired an unauthorized worker or continue to employ an alien who is or becomes unauthorized.
The effect of debarment on a company is paralyzing. First, each company’s name is entered into the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), which identifies parties that have been suspended, debarred, proposed for debarment or otherwise excluded from receiving federal contracts, certain subcontracts and certain types of federal financial and non-financial assistance and benefits. Subsequently, the companies on the list are prohibited from competing for new government contracts. Additionally, the proposed debarment and immediate suspension apply government-wide, meaning no federal agency may award a new contract while these companies are on the list. However, the companies have a 30-day period to respond and challenge the decision made by ICE officers.
The MVP Law Group, P.A. strongly recommends that companies maintain accurate and complete I-9 forms for each employee, as maintaining these records is a good faith defense to a charge of hiring unauthorized workers. Employers should also perform I-9 audits annually, if not every six months, to ensure I-9 compliance.