Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tom Homan recently stated that the agency will vastly step up crackdowns on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. The Director said he recently asked Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative unit of ICE, to audit how much of their time is spent on worksite enforcement, and said he has ordered that to increase “by four to five times.” He said, “we’ve already increased the number of inspections and worksite operations, you’re going to see that significantly increase this next fiscal year.” Homan explained ICE is also going to strongly prosecute employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrant workers, in addition to deporting those workers.
These new statements highlight the need for employers to make sure their Form I-9 compliance is in order. Organizations that aren’t knowingly employing undocumented immigrants are still at risk as fines for errors on I-9s range from $216 – $2,156. Bottom line, it’s time to review your I-9 files. There are three steps that can be taken to help address key areas of potential risk for I-9 compliance:
- Past I-9s: Purge I-9s for terminated employees meeting the criteria below. Remember, if an I-9 is being retained it’s subject to an audit and equally at risk for penalties and fines even if the employee no longer works there. You should ask the following questions when evaluating whether to purge an I-9 for a former employee:
- Have they terminated?
- Has it been three years since their date of hire? (an employer must retain that Form I-9 for 3 years after the date of hire) OR
- Has it been a year since they terminated? (an employer needs to retain that Form I-9 for 1 year after the date employment is terminated), whichever is later.
- Current I-9s: Audit and remediate all your current I-9s. An estimated 60 to 80% of paper I-9s are missing, incomplete, or have errors*. Although employers are still at risk for penalties associated with those errors, internal audits are viewed favorably by ICE and can greatly reduce your potential exposure.
- Future I-9s: Develop a standard operating procedure to enforce a consistent process across the organization with guidance for accurate, timely, and compliant completion of Section 1 and Section 2 of the Form I-9 with safeguards to help prevent under and over documentation.
The award winning suite of I-9 solutions from Equifax can help employers manage compliance with past, current, and future I-9s to get prepared for the expected increase in ICE worksite enforcement efforts.
*According to an industry attorney at Jackson Lewis P.C.
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