ICE brings on additional auditors to support exponential increase in Form I-9 inspections
When HR managers think of Form I-9 inspections, they often imagine the proverbial knock at the door from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the whirlwind of activity that follows as I-9 forms are gathered, quickly reviewed, and turned over to the government in just 3 business days. What they don’t often think about is what happens immediately after the I-9s have been sent on their merry way for review and inspection.
For sure, we all know about the potential fines and penalties, which sometimes stretch into the millions for organizations that have been derelict in their I-9 duties. But, there’s actually a fair amount of review, analysis, and investigation that occurs long before a fine (or other type of notice) is issued. For this essential task, ICE relies upon Form I-9 auditors and other support personnel to review and analyze vast amounts of data.
And as we described last month, ICE worksite enforcement personnel have been keeping very busy as of late. Just yesterday, ICE executed multiple federal criminal search warrants at seven agricultural processing plants across Mississippi as part of an ongoing worksite enforcement criminal investigation. Officers also detained approximately 680 individuals who are suspected of engaging in unauthorized employment at the various plants.
At the same time (and often as a precursor to such actions), ICE has been conducting an increasing number of Form I-9 audits across the US. So much so that ICE recently modified an existing contract for I-9 support services in order to procure 27 additional Junior Compliance Officers (JCOs) to audit employers’ I-9 records. This modification (available through FedBizOpps.gov) confirms the recent surge in worksite inspections and also reveals a sizable backlog of pending I-9 audit reviews – as we describe below.
Request for I-9 Support Personnel
In May of this year, ICE’s Office of Acquisition Management prepared a “Justification” memo outlining the reasons why they needed to modify an existing sole source labor contract for additional I-9 support personnel. In particular, ICE noted that they had opened four new Special Agent in Charge (SAC) offices in Charlotte/Charleston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Nashville/Louisville in order to assist with the ongoing audits of employer records.
ICE also noted that their workload across all SAC offices had increased based on overall enforcement initiatives as well as the exponential increase in the number of Form I-9 audits. This increased workload has resulted in a backlog of approximately 2,174 I-9 audit cases, with higher concentrations in the Boston, Dallas, Tampa, and New Orleans/Little Rock areas. In their justification, ICE also noted that additional support staff are needed to assist in upcoming I-9 audit surge operations as well (which we’ve certainly seen evidence of as of late).
Source: ICE OAQ Justification for Exception to Fair Opportunity Exceeding the SAT FAR 16.505(b)(2)(ii)(B), J&A-19-0052
What this means for HR
Now more than ever HR managers and other compliance personnel need to prepare for the eventual I-9 audit. Just as ICE has been ramping up their operations, HR should consider doing the same through a combination of self-evaluation, training, and policy reviews. The good news is that HR doesn’t need to hire more staff in order achieve I-9 nirvana; many of these compliance initiatives can actually be achieved through a smart and well-automated I-9 and E-Verify solution.
If you’d like to learn more about the Guardian Electronic I-9 and E-Verify software, which was designed by immigration attorneys, please visit www.lawlogix.com/guardian.