Immigration related enforcement activity is on the rise making HR professionals question their company practices for immigration compliance including completion of the I-9 Form. On May 12, 2008, a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa was the site of the largest immigration raid ever held which netted 300 suspected illegal aliens. The joint ICE and DOL operaton targeted aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security Numbers and other crimes. Similar raids have been held in Pennsylvania like the one at Iridium Industries’ Artube Division in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where 81 employees were arrested in an immigration raid.
The immigration raids are conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of its "Worksite Enforcement Initiative". These raids target "egregious employers involved in criminal activity or worker exploitation." However, the scope of ICE operations might suggest more as it operates 17 teams making 15,049 immigration arrests. ICE also reports that over 90 individuals in company supervisory chains were arrested on criminal charges including harboring illegal aliens, knowingly hiring them and other immigration related violations.
The INS has several mechanism to discover the employment of illegal workers including the following:
- Social Security Mismatch Letters: Coordination between the IRS and the SSA began in 2002 with the issuance of "mismatch letters" that require an employer to check and report on discrepancies between SSN# and W-2 forms.
- DOL and OFCCP Audits: Several government agencies conduct random audits of employer’s I-9 forms as a part of their other audit activities.
- Proposed Electronic Employment Verification System (EEVS): E-Verify allows employers to check whether there is a match between a prospective employee’s name and social security number.
The consequences to a business and individuals for noncompliance with immigration laws including correct I-9 reporting are significant. The following is a partial list of penalties:
- For employers who fail to properly complete, retain, or make I-9 Forms available for inspection, fines range from $100 to $1,100 per individual I-9.
- For employers who knowingly hire or knowingly continue to employ unauthorized workers, civil penalties range from $250 to $11,000 per violation.