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Number of Government Enforcement Investigations Doubles

ICE announced its enforcements investigations in the last seven months have already doubled last year’s total.

Since October 2017, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) opened 3,510 worksite investigations, initiated 2,282 I-9 audits, and made 594 criminal and 610 administrative worksite-related arrests. Thomas Homan, Acting Director of ICE, predicted in October 2017 that ICE would quadruple worksite enforcement investigations. Now, Derek Benner, head of the ICE HSI unit reported to AP that “another nationwide wave of audits planned this summer would push the total ‘well-over’ 5,000 by September 30.”

The stated purpose of these investigations is to create a “culture of compliance and accountability,” protect jobs for U.S. workers, eliminate “unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security.” [Link to ICE announcement: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-worksite-enforcement-investigations-already-double-over-last-year]

The result has been the largest numbers of arrests and the highest penalties assessed in enforcement actions. In January, ICE agents served I-9 audits on 98 7-Eleven stores across 17 states, interviewed employees and managers, and arrested 21 workers. In April, at Southeastern Provision in Tennessee, ICE and the IRS arrested 86 individuals and executed search warrants to gather evidence regarding the company’s compliance.

In FY 2017, such actions against businesses netted $97 million in judicial forfeitures, fines, and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines.

Investigations most often start with a notice of inspection alerting employers that ICE is going to audit their employment records for compliance with existing law. Companies then have three days to produce I-9 records. If employers are found not to be in compliance, civil penalties will be assessed. This can lead to criminal prosecutions. Unauthorized employees who are not legally in the U.S. may be detained and, ultimately, deported. I-9 audits can turn into criminal investigations, however, if certain factors exist.

ICE sees worksite inspections as “one of the most powerful tools the federal government uses to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws.” Given the government’s focus, preparing for possible inspections by auditing your employment verification processes and records is an essential precaution.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019


About this Author

Michael H. Neifach, Jackson Lewis, Employment visa Lawyer, border security matters attorney

Michael Neifach is a Principal in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a recognized leader on immigration, visa and border security matters, and he is Co-Leader of the firm's Immigration practice group.

Mr. Neifach has held senior positions at the White House Homeland Security Council, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He served as General Counsel at ICE from July 2007 through January 2009. Following his government service, Mr. Neifach oversaw...

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Amy L. Peck, Immigration Attorney, Jackson Lewis, Worksite Compliance Lawyer

Amy L. Peck is a Principal in the Omaha, Nebraska, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She dedicates her practice exclusively to immigration law and worksite compliance, and she is Co-Leader of the firm's Immigration practice group.

Ms. Peck is one of 21 Directors elected to serve on the 14,000-member American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Board of Governors. She currently is serving on the Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council.

Ms. Peck is a member of the AILA National Verification Committee, which liaises with USCIS, ICE and OCAHO on I-9, E-verify and related worksite issues. Ms. Peck recently served on the AILA National USCIS Benefits Committee, the Interagency Committee, the Annual Conference Committee, previously chaired the AILA FOIA Liaison Committee, the AILA Comprehensive Reform Committee (2010-2011) and is a founding member of the Global Migration Action Group (2009 to present). She served as Chair of the AILA National Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) liaison committee (2008-2010). Ms. Peck also served as Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for AILA (2008-2009) and served on the Spring Conference committee (2008-2010). She was chosen as the editor of the AILA Midyear Conference materials in 2010, and past Chair of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) liaison committee (2004-2006). She is past Chair of the AILA Iowa-Nebraska chapter (2001-2003), and previously served as its treasurer (1999-2000).

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