The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office has announced it will notify 1,000 employers across the country the agency will audit their hiring records to determine compliance with employment eligibility verification laws. These Notices of Inspection (NOIs) often request not only I-9 documentation, but payroll records, copies of immigration filings, copies of Social Security Administration communications requesting corrections, information on independent contractors, and related information. All documentation normally must be produced within three business days of the employer’s receiving the Notice.
ICE says the employers targeted are those whose businesses have a key role in keeping national infrastructure safe. The 17 sectors singled out for the enforcement action include those associated with agriculture and food, financial services, commercial nuclear reactors, drinking water and water treatment, postal and shipping, healthcare, and transportation. According to ICE, “The inspections will touch on employers of all sizes and in every state in the nation, with an emphasis on businesses related to critical infrastructure and key resources.”
In February, ICE had investigated 1,000 employers. This latest action continues the upward trend of yearly audits, bringing the number of I-9 audits for fiscal year 2011 to more than 2,300. The agency conducted 2,196 audits in fiscal year 2010 and 1,444 in fiscal year 2009. For more information on how to get your company prepared for such an audit, see our I-9 compliance tips at http://www.jacksonlewis.com/practices.php?PracticeID=16.
Fraud Detection Unit
In addition to the I-9 inspections, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, another arm of the DHS, has again stepped up its efforts to investigate and combat fraudulent use of immigration programs. The Fraud Detection Unit first started making random site visits in late 2009. A visit usually involves an unannounced drop-in by a USCIS agent or contractor who reviews the employment conditions of a nonimmigrant worker, usually H-1B employees. The agent will request to speak to the employee, review the workplace, and review payroll and related records. For a more detailed description of a site visit, see H-1B Employers: Prepare for Site Visits From USCIS.
What Employers Can Do
These government crackdowns on employers represent a key part of DHS’s immigration enforcement policy, emphasizing employer audits rather than the high-profile workplace raids of the past. It appears employers will continue to be targeted.
If you receive a Notice of Inspection, immediately contact your counsel. The window for response is short. It is critical that employers review thoroughly the documents gathered in response to the Notice and that the documents be well-organized and presented in the best light possible.
Employers who have not received a Notice this time around should take the opportunity to review and audit their records internally. For more information on how our Global Immigration Practice Group can assist you, see our I-9 Compliance Brochure.