Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC - Immigration Attorneys In California And Utah
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The New Face Of Immigration Workforce Enforcement

The New Face Of Immigration Workforce Enforcement

Before 1986, there was no law on the books that made it illegal for an employer to hire an undocumented worker. Employers were at liberty to offer employment to any candidate, without the necessity of verifying their eligibility to work. In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which brought about serious penalties for employers who employed undocumented workers. These penalties were rarely imposed.

Today the situation is vastly different. In 2003, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency was established as the investigative division of the Department of Homeland Security. In April 2006, ICE commenced a new scheme designed to identify and penalize employers hiring or retaining unauthorized workers. ICE's primary objective was no longer to provide education and guidance to employers. Rather, the new plan was to go after the employers and punish them to the fullest extent of the law.

According to its own statistics, between September 30, 2007 and August 30, 2008, ICE was responsible for 1,037 criminal arrests at various worksites throughout the United States. Of those, 123 involved owners, managers, supervisors or human resource employees who were charged with a wide gambit of immigration violations, including harboring, knowingly hiring illegal aliens, and money laundering. Other criminal charges pertained to identity theft and Social Security fraud. Additionally, ICE conducted over 4700 administrative arrests and assessed over $31 million in criminal fines, restitutions, and civil judgments in response to its worksite-related investigations.

These numbers are staggering and they paint a rather grim picture for employers whose compliance with the immigration laws may be less than stellar. To makes things worse, no relief appears to be in sight. In fact, not a week goes by without the news of yet another ICE raid or investigation. The following are somber examples:

As evident by the above examples, ICE agents have been targeting employers from all walks of life - from big companies to small "mom and pop" shops. Civil and criminal statutes have been invoked to administer harsh and severe penalties. Business owners and managers have been charged with serious felonies, including harboring and money laundering, which carry a potential sentence up to 10 years in prison. Furthermore, a person who has been convicted of a federal felony can have his or her assets seized pursuant to the Criminal Asset Forfeiture statutes.

However before an ICE raid occurs, there are frequently warning signs, which frequently go by unnoticed. They may include a random visit from a local enforcement representative who is claiming to look for a particular person. Sometimes a lone ICE officer will come by under a false pretext, trying to "scope" the worksite. Employers who frequently hire aliens not authorized to work, hire mainly those who are related or friends with the existing employees, or purposely fail to comply with the Form I-9 system are at risk, as are those who fail to respond to "No-Match" letters from the Social Security Administration. Employers who allow their employees change their identities and produce new and different documents without a further investigation are also on the hook. Employers should be also vigilant about an increased number of community complaints that there many foreign workers around who do not speak English.

In light of the aggressive ICE tactics and diligent prosecution, it is incumbent upon employers to put in place procedures and protocols, which will protect them from harsh civil and criminal consequences. These should include the following:

Finally, employers should consider hiring a reputable immigration attorney who can navigate them through the complicated I-9 compliance process and educate them on the procedures preceding and following an ICE investigation. Our office has assisted many corporations and small business in their I-9 compliance programs. Should you need our professional services, please contact us at 800-352-7034 or consult our website www.wilneroreilly.com.

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