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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Levies Record $95 Million Civil Settlement for Immigration Violations

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) levied a historic $95 million settlement against a national tree company in connection with a six year investigation by ICE into the company’s hiring of undocumented workers and other immigration violations. This settlement represents the largest payment ever received in an immigration case. Moreover, it demonstrates ICE’s commitment to immigration enforcement and deterring U.S. employers from knowingly hiring undocumented workers.

ICE discovered that from 2010 until December 2014, the company had hired and rehired employees whom they knew had false and fraudulent immigration documents. According to the settlement, the company utilized a decentralized hiring model so that the highest levels of management could remain willfully blind while supervisors and general foremen hired, and were incentivized to hire, unauthorized workers. These workers were recruited through word of mouth referrals rather than a formal hiring process. This model gave the company access to an inexpensive and readily available workforce, thereby maximizing the company’s profit, productivity, and market share.

This settlement serves as warning to U.S. employers about the risk involved in hiring unauthorized workers. In light of this case, employers that hire foreign workers should consult with counsel to develop and maintain a strictly compliant on-boarding program, including strict adherence to I-9 and eVerify regulations. Periodic audits of I-9 documentation can help ensure employees’ proof of U.S. work authorization is continuously up-to-date.

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About this Author

Greenberg Traurig’s Immigration & Compliance Practice represents businesses, organizations, and individuals from around the world on a wide range of immigration matters and visa needs.

Our Immigration & Compliance Practice advises multinational corporations on a variety of employment-related immigration issues, focusing on strategic immigration planning for U.S. and international companies for the international relocation of personnel both from and into the United States. We work with our clients to address the visa and work...