• ICE Launches Dramatic New Employment Record Audit Initiative
  • July 31, 2009 | Author: Michael E. Stroster
  • Law Firm: Miller Johnson - Grand Rapids Office
  • The Obama administration’s promise to take the fight against illegal immigration to the employer’s doorstep has started in a big way. On July 1, 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a new audit initiative by issuing orders to produce employment records to 652 businesses nationwide. The notices alert business owners that ICE will be inspecting their I-9s and other hiring records to determine whether or not they are complying with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. This new initiative illustrates ICE’s increased focus on holding employers accountable for their hiring practices and efforts to ensure a legal workforce. To put it in context, ICE issued more audits on this one day than they did in all of 2008.

    “ICE is committed to establishing a meaningful I-9 inspection program to promote compliance with the law. This nationwide effort is a first step in ICE’s long-term strategy to address and deter illegal employment,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. This action follows directives from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that ICE will focus its resources in the worksite enforcement program on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers in order to target the root cause of illegal immigration. ICE was ordered to arrest and process for removal any illegal workers who are found in the course of these worksite enforcement actions and use all available civil and administrative tools, including civil fines and debarment, against employers to penalize and deter illegal employment.

    The 652 businesses targeted for an I-9 audit have been selected for inspection as a result of leads and information obtained through other investigative means. The leads that spark a worksite investigation come from an array of sources - tips from the public, reports from a company’s current or former employees, even referrals from other law enforcement agencies. Cases involving national security or public safety implications receive top priority, as do investigations involving allegations of egregious worker exploitation, where the welfare of the employees may be at risk. Once a lead is received, ICE agents employ a variety of techniques to investigate the allegations, including the use of undercover agents, confidential informants, cooperating defendants, and surveillance. Due to the ongoing investigation the names and locations of the businesses were not released.