As I have stated over and over, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been, and will continue to come after employers who hire undocumented workers. A large number of employers during 2010 found out the hard way that noncompliance will be dealt with. Now, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) released a new I-9 manual on January 5. The manual is a big improvement from previous versions in that it helps clarify many issues and is easier to navigate through. It can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf.
Also, as noted, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been aggressively fining companies for mere technical I-9 violations. Even where the company has no unauthorized workers, ICE has recently been coming down hard on mere technical violations.
For example, in September 2010, Abercrombie and Fitch was fined $1 million because it’s digital I-9 software had a glitch which resulted in some I-9’s having blank fields. Even though all of the employees in question were work authorized and all had I-9’s, ICE still fined the company in order to send a message. The Officer in Charge of the investigation noted: “This settlement should serve as a warning to other companies that may not yet take the employment verification process seriously or provide it the attention it warrants. ” The ICE press release can be seen at http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1009/100928detroit.htm.
Until Congress creates a digital social security card to help employers through the process, I-9’s that are not compliant will affect the value of your company and expose management to liability. Employers are encouraged to be proactive in this area and ensure compliant I-9 practices. If you have any questions or want us to review your I-9s please call for an appointment. Don’t ASSUME it is being done correctly! The fines and penalties are stiff.