How to Prevent and Prepare Your Business for an ICE Audit
Enforcement of immigration laws has largely been focusing on employers. There has been a huge increase in the number of business audits by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), and it is the stated policy of the Obama administration to enforce immigration laws by focusing on ICE audits of employers’ I-9 records. This employer focus is likely to continue, especially with an increase in the use of E-Verify, the revitalization of the IMAGE program, the hiring of new ICE agents, and opening new ICE offices charged with making I-9 inspections.
In 2008, there were 135 employer arrests, and from 2003 through 2008, ICE imposed fines of $1.5 million against companies employing illegal workers. Between 2009, ICE conducted 9,140 inspections and issued $31.2 million in civil fines to employers.
If an ICE agent or auditor conducts an inspection for Form I-9 compliance and finds technical or procedural violations, an employer is given ten business days to make corrections. Employers risk monetary fines for any uncorrected technical violations.
If an employer knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers, he risks criminal prosecution in addition to monetary fines. Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ an illegal worker range from $375 to $16,000 per violation. Penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation.
While the odds of an ICE audit are unknown, and penalties and possible criminal sanctions for violations are steep. It is therefore critical for business owners to always be prepared for an ICE audit. Having an immigration compliance plan is a preventative measure that largely pays off. Recommended steps include:
- Storing I-9 files separately from personnel files
- Retaining I-9 files for up to three years from hire date, or one year after an employee leaves employment that was over three years
- Use updated I-9 forms
- Implement periodic external audits
Ivener & Fullmer, LLP is a business immigration law firm. We serve business owners, human resource professionals, and in-house attorneys in public and private companies, as well as international business people, foreign investors, and entertainers. For more information on how we can help your business remain compliant with immigration laws, please contact one of our partners in our offices in Los Angeles office.