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Homeland Security Targets Employers’ Immigration Compliance

Investigations and audits of Form I-9 documents by ICE agents are on the rise, and the Obama administration is promising to keep the heat on employers in the coming year. A report by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security issued in February found that ICE had fined employers from across the country a total of $31.2 million for Form I-9 violations between 2009 and 2012. Those fines were the result of audits conducted at 9,140 employers. But the fines tell only part of the story: ICE has also criminally charged employers for violations. There was some good news in the Inspector General’s report. It found that ICE’s negotiation of fines with employers led, in some cases, to substantial reductions in the fine amount. Overall, negotiations and settlements with employers reduced initial Notices of Intent to Fine from $52.7 million to $31.2 million in final orders, an average reduction of 40%. Employers can prepare for a potential ICE audit by conducting a thorough self-audit of their existing Forms I-9, their current processes and their past practices. Employers can use this self-audit to develop new policies and training exercises to standardize the company’s I-9 practices.

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