Enforcement Preparation and Defense
Another significant concern for employers involves the real specter of worksite enforcement actions by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under U.S. immigration laws, employers are required to verify on Form I-9 the identity and employment authorization of all employees, regardless of nationality, who started work on or after Nov. 6, 1986. Employers who violate these employment eligibility requirements are subject to civil monetary penalties and possible criminal prosecution. Violations of the law include knowingly employing unauthorized workers, failure to complete the Form I-9 properly, wrongful discrimination against job applicants on the basis of nationality or citizenship, and document abuse.
In the past, the prospect of monetary penalties did not appear to have much of a deterrent effect on employers, who often came to view these fines as simply the “cost of doing business.” In recent years, however, ICE has intensified its efforts and increased its worksite enforcement actions. More important, ICE is bringing criminal charges against employers with much greater frequency. The Department of Homeland Security also significantly increased the fine structure for offending employers.. In addition, the ICE budget for investigations has increased substantially and this has led to several highly publicized large-scale worksite raids and investigations at well-known corporations, such as Wal-Mart, Swift, and Tyson Foods. Through these and other worksite enforcement actions, the government is making it clear that it will not tolerate the continued employment of undocumented workers and that it will use federal criminal and asset forfeiture laws to penalize employers for such actions.
As a result of these actions, the government no longer simply issues small fines to employers who commit serious Form I-9 violations. ICE often conducts lengthy criminal investigations that result in indictments of company owners, executives, managers, and other company personnel involved in these illegal activities. Criminal charges include harboring illegal aliens, money laundering, and/or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. These offenses can carry prison sentences of 10-20 years , plus forfeiture of all company assets and revenues utilized in this illegal activity.