U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been significantly increasing audits and worksite investigations, according to figures in a Monday press release by the agency.

During the first seven months of the 2018 fiscal year—between Oct. 1, 2017 and May 4, 2018—ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit initiated 2,282 I-9 audits and opened 3,510 worksite investigations, compared with only 1,360 I-9 audits and 1,716 worksite investigations for the full previous fiscal year. The agency has also ramped up arrests, more than tripling the number of criminal and administrative workplace-related arrests. The increase in employer audits is consistent with outgoing ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan’s directive last October to quadruple workplace investigations.

“Employers need to understand that the integrity of their employment records is just as important to the federal government as the integrity of their tax files and banking records,” HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner said in the press release. Benner also told the Associated Press on Monday that another nationwide wave of audits is planned for this summer and would push the total to “well over” 5,000 by Sept. 30. He also highlighted a proposal by ICE to create an Employer Compliance Inspection Center to perform employer audits at a single location. ICE would like to add up to 250 auditors and a team of attorneys to enable the agency to audit between 10,000 and 15,000 companies annually.

Key reminders:

  • Employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all new hires in the United States and to document the information using the Form I-9.
  • Companies that are served with a Notice of Inspection (NOI) by ICE to audit their records are given three business days to produce their Forms I-9, after which ICE will conduct a compliance inspection.
  • Employers who are found to be out of compliance will likely face heavy civil fines as well as possible criminal prosecution if they are found to have knowingly violated the law. Employees found to be without proper work authorization during investigations are subject to arrest and deportation.

BAL Analysis: The ICE press release and Associated Press article are strong reminders to encourage employers to conduct an internal audit of their I-9 forms and have protocols in place in the event that they are inspected by ICE. BAL’s compliance team can assist in conducting internal audits and preparing employers for a Form I-9 inspection.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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