Cold as ICE!

Cold as ICE!

by Jean Seawright

IMPORTANT: Don't miss the next GROUPtalk-Live session on this subject. Details are below!

At the federal level, things have been relatively quiet on the regulatory front with the exception of one agency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Affectionately known as ICE, this federal agency has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion and employs more than 20,000 employees in over 400 offices in the United Stated and 46 foreign countries. ICE's mission is to "protect America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety."

On the employment front, ICE professes to "help businesses secure a lawful workforce and enforce immigration laws against those who encourage and rely on unauthorized workers, sometimes taking advantage of their situation to offer low pay and inadequate conditions." In other words, our business-friendly Administration is no friend of businesses that employ unauthorized workers. Judging from a few of the recent workplace raids, every employer should take heed. ICE has made it known that they will not only detain and remove illegal workers, they will prosecute employers.

The agency recently announced that since January 2018, it has served more than 5,200 I-9 audit notices to businesses across the country.  And, since the beginning of the agency's fiscal year (October 1, 2017),

  • there were 6,093 worksite investigations opened (compared to 1,716 the prior fiscal year) and
  • 675 criminal and 984 administrative employer arrests (compared to 139 criminal and 172 administrative arrests the prior year).
Currently, ICE is working on a plan to create an Employer Compliance Inspection Center that would enable the agency to more efficiently audit employers. If this plan comes to fruition, ICE could audit  between 10,000 and 15,000 companies annually. The idea, according to Derek Benner, head of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unit, is to create a "culture of compliance" among employers.

How Does an Audit Come About and What Happens When They Arrive at Your Door?

Unlike the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, ICE will not reveal the industries that it targets for enforcement. ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett will only say that "all businesses, regardless of size, industry, or geographic location, are expected to comply with the law." With recent raids in the hospitality, retail, trades, and technological industries, no one doubts this philosophy.

If your business is identified for an ICE inspection, you will receive a written Notice of Inspection (NOI) at least 3 days before the scheduled audit, which will take place at your business. You can ask for an extension, which is usually granted if it is reasonable. In addition to providing the ICE agent with I-9 forms and associated documents for inspection, if you use a third party vendor or software to electronically generate or store I-9 forms, there may be several additional requirements.The amount of time necessary for the onsite portion of the inspection will depend on the number of employees and quality of your records. ICE agents also work behind the scenes during an investigation.

Once the inspection is completed, ICE will notify you in writing of the results. If technical or procedural violations are found, you will be given 10 business days to make corrections. You could receive a monetary fine for substantive and uncorrected technical violations. If ICE determines that you knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers, you will be required to cease the unlawful activity, may be fined, and in certain situations may be criminally prosecuted. Additionally, if you have federal government contracts, your business could be barred from engaging in future federal contracts and from receiving other government benefits.

Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ violations range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, with repeat offenders receiving penalties at the higher end. Penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation. In determining penalty amounts, ICE considers five factors: the size of the business, good faith effort to comply, seriousness of violation, whether the violation involved unauthorized workers, and history of previous violations.

Audit Your I-9s NOW!

Don't expect ICE investigations to abate any time soon. Recently, the Trump administration announced it is seeking an increase in the ICE budget to $8.8 billion in FY 2019. Some of these funds will be used to hire 400 more ICE agents and support personnel on top of the 1000 agents that were hired in FY 2017.

If you have not conducted a self-audit of your I-9 forms or if you have not arranged for a third-party audit of these forms, we recommend you make this a priority, especially if you are in an industry that is commonly known to hire foreign labor.

All I-9 forms must be completed and maintained in accordance with U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regulations. This is not as straight-forward as you may think. Last August, we developed a comprehensive Immigration Client Advisory with vital tips for properly completing I-9s, auditing your I-9s, and correcting errors that are discovered during a self-audit. As a Client of The Garden Center Group, you can receive a copy of this advisory by requesting it HERE.

As always, if you have questions about proper I-9 completion, USCIS compliance, or an HR and I-9 audit, please call our office for assistance.

Got questions or need help with HR issues? 
Give Seawright & Associates a call or email!
Jean Seawright, Jean Martin and staff
Office: 407.645.2433
As a member of the Group, you don't have to face daunting HR challenges alone! With our professional HR consulting firm, Seawright & Associates, help is only a phone call away. The experts at Seawright & Associates are there to provide advice and assistance with hiring, coaching, and terminating your employees; employee handbook development; compliance with state and federal employment regulations; performance evaluations; job descriptions; compensation plans; management training and development; personality profiles; internal investigations; management advice; and a variety of other human resource services.

Best of all, Group clients have exclusive access to Seawright & Associates for telephone consultation at no extra charge... it's included in your Group Retainer!


Our Next GROUPtalk-Live Webinar:

Winter is Coming... Prepare for ICE!
with Seawright & Associates

Tuesday, November 6, at 11:00 a.m.

Employer I-9 audits and immigration raids are on the rise and, thanks to increased government funding of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division (ICE), there is no end in sight. Along with significant fines and penalties for noncompliance with basic I-9 documentation procedures, ICE is also detaining and removing illegal workers, and prosecuting employers.

Is your business ready for an ICE audit? On Tuesday, November 6, at 11:00 a.m., you have an opportunity to prepare!

Join Seawright & Associates for an informative webinar covering critical employer requirements and information you need to know, such as the most common I-9 errors employers make, the pros and cons of copying and maintaining documents, how to properly maintain I-9s for current and terminated workers, what you are attesting to when you sign an I-9, invalid social security numbers, which version of the I-9 you must use, how to properly correct I-9 errors, and what to do if you discover an employee is working under a false identity.

Don’t miss this valuable webinar and the opportunity to have peace of mind in this critical area of human resources.

GROUPtalk-Live Webinars are exclusive service of The Garden Center Group!

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