• Enforcement Update -- ICE Announces 1,000 More I-9 Audits, S.C. Employer Avoids Jail Time
  • December 3, 2009
  • Law Firm: Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. - Greenville Office
  • I-9 Inspections. Continuing the trend of increasing I-9 audits, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton announced on November 19 the issuance of Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to 1,000 employers across the country. This round of inspections is focused on employers associated with critical infrastructure. The employers were selected based upon investigative leads and intelligence and because of the businesses' connection to public safety and national security. While the names of the businesses were not released, it is suspected that employers based at or near airports, borders, military installations, and critical infrastructure facilities (such as power plants, chemical facilities, etc.) are likely targets.

    In the same press release, ICE indicated that its newly-implemented enforcement strategy initiated on April 30 has already resulted in 1,069 Form I-9 Inspections and Notices of Intent to Fine (NIF) totaling nearly $16 million.

    Employer Settlement. On November 3, South Carolina poultry processor Columbia Farms reached a last-minute settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s office and avoided trial and possible criminal sanctions. Under the agreement, Columbia Farms will pay $1.5 million in fines to the government to resolve 29 criminal counts of continuing to employ illegal aliens knowing they were not authorized to work. The company also must adopt and maintain a compliance program and begin using E-Verify over the next 24 months so that criminal charges can be formally dismissed. 

    Two of the company’s managers, Barry Cronic and Elaine Crump, avoided possible criminal penalties that included five years or more in federal prison provided they comply with a one-year pre-trial diversion program. Published reports indicate that other human resource officials were prepared to take the stand to confirm that the managers knew the persons they were hiring were illegal. One human resources employee indicated she was told not to examine actual IDs when hiring, but instead to photocopy the document and review the copy. Flaws in the authenticity of the document were not apparent on the photocopies. The government was also seeking to introduce evidence showing the company ignored Social Security No-Match letters. A 2008 government raid resulted in a government determination that 777 of 825 employees at the Greenville plant had apparently submitted false documents to secure employment.