U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a bold new audit initiative this year to combat the problem of hiring of an illegal workforce.
On July 1, 2009, 654 businesses nationwide were served with Notice of Inspections (NOIs) indicating that ICE would inspect their hiring records (Form I-9) to determine whether they were in accordance with the employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. The businesses presented with the NOIs to Audit Form I-9 were selected as a result of leads and other information obtained through other investigative measures. This was the first step for ICE in its nationwide plan to promote compliance with the employment eligibility laws through an effective I-9 Audit system.
Audits involve a comprehensive review of Form I-9s. Form I-9 must be completed and retained for each new hire. The form requires the employer to review several personal identification documents of the new hire (i.e., passport, permanent resident card, employment authorization card, driver’s license, birth certificate, military id, etc) and to determine the genuineness of the documents.
The statistics resulting from the 654 businesses audited by ICE are provided below:
• ICE agents reviewed more than 85,000 Form I-9s and identified more than 14,000 suspect documents-approximately 16 percent of the total number reviewed • To date, 61 NIFs have been issued, resulting in $2,310,255 in fines. In addition, 267 cases are currently being considered for Notices of Intent to Fine (NIFs).
• ICE closed 326 cases after businesses were found to be in compliance with employment laws or after businesses were served with a Warning Notice in expectation of future compliance.
Furthermore, on November 19, 2009, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton announced the issuance of NOIs to 1,000 employers across the country associated with critical infrastructure.
In the News Release announcing the issuance of the NOIs, Assistant ICE Secretary Morton stated that “ICE is focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces.” ICE Audits are one of the most important administrative tools in building criminal cases and bringing employers into compliance with the law.