• ICE Issues I-9 Audit Letters to Selected Employers
  • July 9, 2009 | Authors: Beth E. Carlson; Valerie Darling; Scott W. Wright
  • Law Firm: Faegre & Benson LLP - Minneapolis Office
  • On July 1, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to hundreds of businesses—alerting these employers that the federal government will be inspecting their I-9s to determine whether or not they have been complying with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. With 652 audits issued in one day, this is the largest such enforcement wave seen thus far.

    To put this initiative in perspective, ICE issued a total of 503 NOIs for the entire 2008 fiscal year.

    In its July 1 announcement, ICE indicated that targeting certain employers for their I-9 practices is part of a comprehensive strategy. This new worksite enforcement strategy reflects a push by the Obama administration to hold employers accountable for their hiring practices and to ensure a legal workforce using the government's investigative authority under the I-9 rules.

    ICE confirmed that the 652 employers receiving NOIs were specifically selected for this I-9 audit initiative based on leads and other investigative information received by the agency prior to the audit. ICE has not released the names and locations of these employers.

    Under I-9 regulations, ICE must provide at least three days notice to the employer prior to the inspection. Issuance of the NOI, which is delivered personally or by certified return receipt mail, is typically the first step in the audit process.

    Employers found to have violated I-9 regulations can be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Civil fines can include monetary fines for employing unauthorized aliens, as well as for paperwork violations for failing to correctly complete and maintain I-9s. Criminal penalties are reserved for cases where there is a pattern and practice of intentional hiring of unauthorized workers—and would include serious and repeat offenders who have specific intent not to comply with immigration rules and regulations.