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Preparing For ICE's New Employer Focused Immigration Enforcement Strategy

Volume 10, Issue 1
January 27, 2011

In early 2009, the Obama Administration's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") adopted a new immigraton enforcement strategy that shifts its focus away from workplace raids geared toward the arrest and deportation of illegal aliens to the auditing, investigation and procesution of the nation's private employers. Under this new strategy, in fiscal year 2010, ICE filed criminal charges against a record-setting 180 employers, managers and supervisors, up from 114 in 2009. ICE also conducted more than 2,740 Form I-9 audits in 2010 as compared to approximately 1,400 in 2009. In addition, the monetary fines levied by ICE against employers increased almost seven fold, from $1 million in 2009 to nearly $7 million in 2010.

To further intensify its crackdown on employers, ICE Chief John Morton told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview that the Obama Administration plans to open an employer audit office called the "Employment Compliance Inspection Center," where specialists will scrutinize Form I-9 files of companies targeted for audits and provide support to ICE's regional offices.

With ICE's increasing enforcement efforts, Nevada's employers need to make sure they are in full compliance with their Form I-9 obligations. In addition to undertaking internal Form I-9 audits, human resource professionals can increase their compliance efforts by carefully reviewing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' ("USCIS") Handbook for Employers - Instructions for Completing Form I-9, which was just revised on January 5, 2011. The 2011 Handbook includes current information about the electronic storage and retention of Form I-9s, new visual aids for completing Form I-9s, examples of new USCIS documents, as well as expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, and extensions of stay for employees with temporary employment authorization.

Nevada employers also have the option of joining other businesses, such as Tyson Foods, Inc., in becoming voluntarily participants in the IMAGE program. Short for "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers," the IMAGE program provides employers with education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program and anti-discrimination procedures. Employers seeking to participate in IMAGE must agree to: complete a self-assessment questionnaire; enroll in E-Verify; enroll in the Social Security Number Verification Service; adhere to IMAGE Best Hiring Practices; undergo a Form I-9 audit conducted by ICE; and sign an official IMAGE partnership agreement with ICE.

Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.