Brace for More Workforce Enforcement Efforts
Note: ICE has extended notice of inspection response times due to Coronavirus disruptions. Read more in our related story, "DHS Announces Adjustments for Form I-9 and E-Verify Processes"
The government's Form I-9 enforcement efforts aren't showing signs of easing up. In fact, the total number of Form I-9 audits during FY 2019 held steady at a slightly higher rate of 6,456 audits over FY 2018. That comes on the heels of a nearly 340% increase in FY 2018 vs. FY 2017.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also conducted more administrative worksite-related arrests in FY 2019, while the number of worksite investigations and criminal arrests decreased slightly.
(Sources: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-worksite-enforcement-investigations-fy18-surge, https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/fy_2021_dhs_bib_web_version.pdf)
What Does This Mean for Your Business?
Simply put, if ICE has already audited your business and it resulted in fines and other penalties, ICE will likely audit you again in the near future. If the agency's investigators find new examples of noncompliance or existing issues that haven't been corrected, then financial penalties could be higher than what you paid in the past. Since fines are assessed on a per-error basis - which, in this case, can mean either individual erroneous I-9s or workers on staff who lack U.S. work authorization - the total bill can become large in no time.
Financial Penalties at All-time High
Homeland Security increased the fines for I-9 violations last year.
- A single erroneous form can incur a penalty between $230 - $2,292.
- Second and subsequent penalties for knowingly or continuing to employ unauthorized workers can range between $4,586 - $11,463 per unauthorized individual.
- Third offenses range from $6,878 - $22,927.
- Third and subsequent violations for creating, distributing or accepting compromised documents range between $3,195 - $9,472 for each offense.
Get your I-9 Compliance Practices in Better Order
There are several steps you can take to ensure your compliant:
- Establish a policy of periodic internal audits that review your Forms I-9
- Implement standard operating procedures
- Train your staff