Yesterday, the Obama administration notified over 1,000 more U.S. companies throughout all 50 states that the government intends to check hiring records for illegal workers soon. These “silent raids can lead to mass employee loss, legal expenses and decreased productivity. Since October 1, 2,338 companies have been audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ” this surpasses the previous year’s record of 2,196. Industries usually affected by the audits include food production, information technology, financial services and construction. Information on when the raid will take place and which companies will be targeted has not been released.
I-9 employer raids are not new, but employers have been claiming that they are not able to monitor their work forces, and fear asking employees for additional documentation due to discrimination lawsuits. However, I-9 raids are highly likely to continue in lieu of comprehensive immigration reform. Employers need to take steps now to ensure compliance (e.g. conduct an I-9 audit, use an online I-9 system, etc.), or if audited by ICE, they may face a multitude of fines and fees.
Former President George W. Bush focused his I-9 compliance efforts on high-profile raids of illegal workers and deportations without charging companies. Conversely, the Obama administration has made employers the bull’s-eye of enforcement. According to officials, “jobs are the magnet for illegal immigration. So far in the 2011 fiscal year, 157 employers are facing criminal arrests, 262,282 illegal workers have been deported and $7.1 million in fines have been collected.Company size doesn’t matter with I-9 enforcement, as small and large companies are both liable for I-9 errors. Some targets of I-9 non-compliance include well-known companies such as American Apparel and Chipotle Mexican Grill. American Apparel lost more than 25% of its employees in 2009 while Chipotle had to fire hundreds of workers due to an audit that began last year in Minnesota.
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