Last June, we alerted small business owners to the strong possibility that they could become targets of increased workplace audits and investigations by ICE. Following the 7-Eleven raids, Derek Brenner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, confirmed that compliance investigations would not be limited to large companies or any particular industry.

This is what we’re gearing up for this year… It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there. We need to make sure that employers are on notice that we are going to come out and ensure that they’re being compliant.
- Derek Brenner
In October 2017, Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, instructed the agency’s investigative unit to potentially increase the amount of time spent on worksite enforcement actions “by four or five times“ in 2018. Source: CNN

Government Takes a Tough Stance

The 7-Eleven raids sent a strong message about the Trump administration’s tough stance on immigration laws and legal hiring. ICE served inspection notices to 7-Eleven franchises in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington State and Washington, D.C. The store owners had three days to provide information about the immigration status of their workers.

Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. said in a statement that the individual franchises of the convenience store chain belong to independent business owners who are required to follow all federal and local laws. The company made clear that it was the sole responsibility of each owner to verify the eligibility of employees to work in the United States.

Last year, several raids and inspections of a variety of other small businesses were also highlighted in the press. In February, ICE agents visited the Aroma Buffet and Grill in East York, Pennsylvania. In May, ICE carried out enforcement actions on Sava’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and El Cerro Restaurant in Hamlin, West Virginia.

High Penalties for Noncompliance

These ICE operations carry the risk of significant penalties for business owners who fail to keep proper I-9 documentation.

As an employer, you’re required to complete and retain a Form I-9, which is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), for every employee you hire. The form is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of new hires, regardless of U.S. citizenship. You must ensure that you meet all the legal requirements for correctly completing the forms or you could face penalties, which are on the rise. As of January 30, 2018, fines for recordkeeping errors or omissions increased from $216 to $2,156 to $224 to $2,236 a form.

USCIS estimates that 76% of paper I-9s contain an error that could result in a government fine.

The following tips can help you stay compliant with Form I-9 requirements:

  • Use the most up-to-date version of the form
  • Collect and examine documents submitted by employees to establish identity and right to work in the U.S. (e.g., passport)
  • Store all I-9 records in a separate file, not the employee’s personnel file. This provides easy access and doesn’t expose other employee files to a potential inspection
  • Do not keep I-9 forms longer than required (three years after the employee’s first day of work or one year after the employee’s last day, whichever is later)

Compliance is Easy with the I-9 & W-4 Smart App

Carefully and accurately completing the Form I-9 can be a time-consuming and complicated part of the new hire onboarding process, especially if you use traditional paperwork. But you can avoid this hassle and simplify this task by going paperless with the I-9 & W-4 Smart App.

Through an automated guided process built and backed by labor law attorneys, you and your new hires can quickly and easily complete required forms and meet government recordkeeping requirements. The I-9 & W-4 app provides you with the latest version of the forms, online storage, and notifications to complete and store time-sensitive forms and discard the ones that you no longer need to keep.

You also have the option to print out documentation for each employee. In the event of an audit, you can trace all changes and updates by viewing a detailed tracking history for each form.

Key Takeaways:
  • Employers must prepare for an increase in workplace audits and investigations by ICE.
  • ICE’s enforcement action will target businesses of all sizes and will not be limited to particular industries.
  • Raids and inspections by ICE carry the risk of heavy penalties for employers who are not compliant with the legal requirements for Form I-9.
  • The I-9 & W-4 Smart App allows you to quickly and easily complete I-9 forms and ensures full compliance.