ICE issues 652 I-9 Audit Inspection Notices

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced issuance of an historic 652 Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to audit businesses concerning the legal immigration status of their workforces. 

These employers weren't from a particular part of the country or a particular industry like I-9 Audit ventures of the past. Instead, these audits are as a result of investigative leads, like disgruntled employees who report their employers to the government based on their perception of an employer's hiring practices; from labor certification filings for undocumented workers (processing to become lawful permanent residents) and through victims of identity theft whose identities could have been sold to an unsuspecting undocumented alien. Those aliens who receive stolen social security numbers, for example, don't do it to harm the credit of individuals, but in order to work. The U.S. Supreme Court recently found prosecution of undocumented workers for identity theft to be a punishment much harsher than the crime and disallowed this government practice.

When supervisors have knowledge of an employee's use of false identification or otherwise knows an employee to be undocumented, it is implied that management possesses this knowledge too resulting in liability on the part of managers and executives of a business even though they have no direct knowledge themselves. The business employer has the knowledge as a result of a supervisor's knowledge and the business entity becomes liable and along with it, those who lead the business.

Businesses today more than ever must audit themselves and have policies in place for a legal workforce and to properly prepare, update, correct and internally audit themselves for compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. As of that time, all new employees must prepare I-9s. If a company receives a Notice of Inspection to audit I-9s, they must provide their I-9s to the government in three short days. To avoid the difficulty in reviewing, updating and other wise correcting all I-9s at that time, ongoing self-audits and routine maintenance of I-9 records would alleviate having to do that in the context of a government initiated audit. 

I-9 audits have gone on to result in criminal liability of businesses and their leaders, and while aliens cannot be prosecuted for identity theft any longer, that doesn't mean their illegal status can be ignored. Hardly: with focus on business as a means of enforcing the U.S. immigration laws, the Obama administration is making good on their promise to enforce the law.

It is Ms. Yardum-Hunter's opinion that the administration is using the immigration enforcement carrot as a lead in to the stick of comprehensive immigration reform.