The days of speculation may have ended. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) acting director recently made clear that Form I-9 audits and worksite enforcement actions will surge in the coming year.
In line with the Trump Administration’s tough position on immigration and its budget requests, most employers have anticipated increased immigration-focused audits and enforcement actions. But we did not see a noticeable uptick during the first three quarters of 2017.
Lest employers become complacent, on October 17, ICE’s Acting Director Thomas Homan announced that ICE would increase worksite audits by “four or five times” in the next year. This comes after a January Executive order and more recent statement by ICE announcing plans to hire 10,000 new worksite enforcement officers.
All the signs now clearly point to an increase in audits and worksite enforcement in 2018. It will take time to hire and train this large volume of new officers. Therefore, it won’t be until next year—likely next summer—before we see a big impact on employers. This provides a short window for many companies to shore up their immigration compliance efforts or else face substantial penalties. Even simple mistakes, like paperwork violations, can cost companies between $220 and $2,191 per Form I-9. The most recent increased penalties are available here.
As a start, it is always a good practice to conduct internal I-9 audits to ensure compliance. The Department of Justice and ICE have provided joint guidance on conducting internal audits: https://www.justice.gov/crt/file/798276/download. Companies should also ensure they are using the most recent version of the Form I-9. This version was published in July 2017 and became mandatory in September 2017. Finally, companies should ensure they retain experienced immigration compliance counsel to assess the adequacy of immigration policies and procedures, ensure compliant Form I-9 practices, and defend the company should a government audit or investigation arise.