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ICE Releases Latest Worksite Enforcement Statistics

Today, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced record-breaking immigration enforcement statistics achieved under the Obama administration, including the imposition of approximately $50 million in financial sanctions for worksite enforcement violations.  While most of the emphasis was on the arrest and deportation of criminal aliens, Secretary Napolitano emphasized that the Obama Administration would continue to hold employers accountable through the use of tools like I-9 audits, fines and debarments. Latest Statistics, penalties from worksite enforcement inspections have increased five-fold in Fiscal Year 2010 due in large part to increased employer scrutiny and several waves of I-9 audits. While the total number of fines and penalties is a constantly moving target, here are the latest statistics from ICE:

  • ICE criminally charged a record-breaking 180 owners, employers, managers and/or supervisors — up from 135 in FY 2008 and 114 in FY 2009.
  • ICE conducted more than 2,200 I-9 audits — up from more than 1,400 in FY 2009.
  • Since January 2009, ICE has imposed approximately $50 million in financial sanctions.
  • ICE debarred 97 business and 49 individuals in FY 2010, up from 30 and 53, respectively, in FY 2009.

How does ICE choose an employer for an I-9 Audit? This is a frequently asked question from employers these days, and the answer is far from clear. In general, ICE conducts I-9 investigations of employers based upon credible leads, which may consist of complaints from disgruntled employees, tips from the public or cases having national security or public safety implications (e.g., employers at airports have been known to be targets). In addition, ICE may also initiate I-9 audits based upon referrals from other government agencies that may have investigated an employer in an unrelated matter. For example, there is a recent article posted on SHRM’s websitewhere attorneys Mary Pivec and Kevin Lashus discuss how the latest round of I-9 investigations may have stemmed (in part) from intelligence gathered by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Lastly, ICE has also been known to target certain employers, most notably those in construction, hospitality, retail and other industries with high turn-over and frequent reports of undocumented workers. How Should Employers Manage the I-9 Risk? The road to I-9 compliance for most organizations starts with a thorough self-examination of existing paper I-9s, E-Verify submissions (if applicable), standard operating procedures, and past practices. While there are many do-it-yourself guides available on the Internet and elsewhere, consulting an immigration or employment lawyer who is familiar with I-9 and E-Verify issues can save employers hours of research and provide a solution tailored to the organization. Employers should also strongly consider using an electronic I-9 and E-Verify system which adheres to the regulations (see myprior post on questions to ask) and has been thoroughly vetted by the marketplace.  Using such a system will offer numerous benefits to organizations looking to streamline their employment eligibility verification process and avoid becoming another ICE statistic.