Immigration solidified itself as the top hot-button HR issue of 2006 last month. Amid the backdrop of immigrants-rights rallies around the country, Congress is debating legislation that could add to employers' duties and risks in policing immigration.
At press time, Congress was trying to reconcile vastly different bills passed in the House and Senate. Both measures would increase penalties for businesses that hire illegal workers.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the "status quo has changed" when it comes to U.S. enforcement against employers who hire illegal workers. To make its point, DHS arrested seven managers of manufacturer IFCO Systems on criminal conspiracy charges for knowingly recruiting illegal workers. DHS apprehended nearly 1,200 illegal IFCO workers.
DHS chief Michael Chertoff said, "These enforcement actions demonstrate that this department has no patience for employers who tolerate or perpetuate a shadow economy. We intend to find employers who knowingly or recklessly hire unauthorized workers."
Outlook: DHS will mostly target the egregious violators, but the crackdown threat makes now a good time to ensure your I-9 and visa processes are in line. For more on I-9 compliance, go to www.uscis.gov (click on Employer Information in right column).