Since 2009, the realm of immigration compliance for employers has been dominated by administrative I-9 audits. With each wave of audits, some may have been lulled into believing that the worst thing that could happen is the loss of undocumented workers and the payment of fines. The complacent may have forgotten that, from 2006 through 2008, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s primary enforcement methods were covert criminal investigations and prosecution of felony harboring of immigrant workers and related charges.
ICE is still in the criminal enforcement game when it comes to worksites. ICE may even be in the process of bypassing I-9 audits and increasing its utilization of covert operations to directly seek asset forfeitures, as recently reported in a case involving hotel owners in the Kansas City area . Although none of these incidents will gain a fraction of the press the Swift or IFCO raids generated in 2006, each is a reminder that employers and immigration compliance counsel must remain vigilant and more than a bit wary. To that end, an employer may be on ICE’s criminal investigation radar during these tell-tale signs.