It’s old news that the Obama administration increased funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE division (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). It’s also been widely reported how this increased funding is being spent. Like the Employer Compliance Inspection Center which houses a team that expressly targets I-9 audits of large businesses. With all the press, it’s hard for me to understand why ICE is saying it believes that 99% of all employers have erroneous I-9’s in their files; that it finds an average of five errors per audited I-9. Actually, it’s not that hard to understand. The federal Form I-9 is a one-page document that comes with 68 pages of instructions.
Complexity aside, ICE is on a mission. In 2010, they doubled their number of audits conducted. Compared with 2008, fines levied have increased 10-fold. Just ask the folks over at Abercrombie and Fitch. They just paid a $1M fine for a third-party’s improper electronic storage of their I-9’s. Bold as ICE.
Ever heard of E-Verify? If not, you will, soon. This ICE program initially gave employers voluntary access to an internet database to verify a worker’s employment status in the U.S. As of today, E-Verify is now mandatory for some or all businesses in the following states: AL, AZ, CA, CO, GA, ID, IL, IN, LA, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NC, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, UT, and VA.
There may have been a time when the risk of non-compliance was, shall we say, manageable. I think those days are over.