Increase in Government Immigration Enforcement Activities

Worksite enforcement activities continue to be expanded by the federal government resulting in significant increases in fines and criminal arrests of company owners and managers. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (known as ICE) has issued press releases describing a number of recent enforcement actions and is reminding employers that Company executives are not protected from prosecution. ICE reports that in 2007, more than 90 individuals in company supervisory roles were criminally arrested for harboring illegal aliens, knowingly hiring them and other violations tied to illegal immigration.

Recent enforcement cases underscore the importance of compliance with immigration laws, the responsibility of company owners and managers in ensuring compliance, and the severity of the punishment for violating those laws:

*The owner and two managers of a Houston-based exporter and grader of used clothing were indicted in July 2008 on various charges of violating federal immigration laws. The ICE investigation revealed the company did not properly complete the required I-9 forms to verify eligibility for employment. It also revealed the company knowingly hired illegal aliens and reportedly paid them in cash until they were able to purchase fraudulent identify and social security cards from local flea markets. The charges carry a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or both.

*ICE agents executed search warrants at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting 389 illegal aliens, the most ever arrested in a single-site worksite enforcement operation. Two supervisors were also arrested and charged with crimes that included aiding with identity theft and encouraging aliens to reside in the US illegally.

*Six meat processing plants in six different states were raided and 1,297 illegal aliens were arrested. All were charged as immigration status violators and 274 were also charged with criminal offenses. A human resources employee also pleaded guilty to illegal alien harboring.

*In March 2008, three former top executives at a Florida-based janitorial services contractor were given prison sentences ranging from 30 to 120 months for their roles in defrauding the US and harboring illegal aliens. Each was also required to pay more than $15 million in restitution to the US Treasury. By failing to collect and pay federal income, Social Security, Medicare and federal employment taxes on wages it paid, the company evaded paying millions in employment taxes.

*57 illegal alien employees of a metal fabrication business were arrested and the company was indicted on 10 counts of harboring illegal aliens. The company's human resources director was indicted and pled guilty to two counts of encouraging or inducing illegal aliens to remain in the US.

*A textile product company owner and three other managers were arrested and charged with conspiring to encourage or induce illegal aliens to reside in the US and conspiring to hire illegal aliens. The company allegedly was aware that many employee used fraudulent green cards and social security cards to obtain employment, and allegedly told prospective employees how to obtain fraudulent documents.

A review of ICE enforcement actions over the past few years makes it abundantly clear that ICE continues to increase enforcement activities. In fiscal year 2007, ICE secured more than $30 million in criminal fines, restitutions, and civil judgments in worksite enforcement cases. 863 people were arrested in criminal cases and more than 4,000 administrative arrests were made. That is a tenfold increase over just five years before.

As of August 2008, ICE made more than 1,000 criminal arrests tied to worksite enforcement investigations. Of the 1,022 individuals criminally arrested, 116 are owners, managers, supervisors or human resources employees facing charges including harboring or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. More than 3,900 administrative arrests for immigration violations have also been made so far in 2008.

Employers have an affirmative obligation to verify that their employees are legally able to work in the US.

To help you meet your compliance objectives, Instant HR Solutions provides the most recent I-9 forms free of charge. Links to the English and Spanish version of the forms are available on the Free Resources page of our website. Note that the Spanish version can be used for translation purposes, but the English version must be the form completed and kept on file. An I-9 Compliance Toolkit is also available for sale, but if you join our mailing list before November 15, 2008, you'll get it for free.

Source: ICE Fact Sheets 8/12/08 and 8/25/08


Allison Grace, CEBS, CCP, CMS, is President and Founder of Instant HR Solutions and a human resources professional with more than nineteen years of experience. As a consultant, Allison has worked with companies in various industries including hedge funds, technology, oil and gas development, recruiting and accounting. Combined with technical training and professional certifications, Allison’s practical experience includes working in all aspects of human resources to establish HR programs t...

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