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Crackdown On Illegal Immigration Affects Employers Everywhere

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in Human Resources,Office Management

Employment authorization is a hot topic these days, from the federal level to the state level.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has identified Form I-9 audits as the most important administrative tool in building criminal cases and bringing employers into compliance with the law.  And on the state front, Arizona has boldly passed new immigration laws that impact employers, and some other states have indicated they might be interested in following Arizona's lead.


I-9 Audits

ICE has increased the issuance of Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to employers across the country.  In July 2009, ICE issued 654 NOIs to businesses nationwide.  In November 2009, ICE issued 1,000 NOIs to businesses connected to public safety and national security and based on investigative leads and intelligence.  In March 2010, ICE issued NOIs to 180 businesses in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.


Employers that think they can fly under ICE's radar could be making a costly mistake.  An ICE investigation can be triggered at any time by a tip from a disgruntled employee, customer, competitor, or concerned citizen.  While willful violations are ICE's main concern, inadvertent mistakes will not be overlooked if they are widespread — ignorance of the law is not bliss.  Here are a couple of preventive steps every employer should take.


Train everyone who is involved in the I-9 process, from the hiring managers who may relay I-9 requirements to new hires to the HR staff members who actually complete the I-9 forms.


Audit I-9 forms before the ICE man cometh.  This is especially important if: the I-9 process is not localized and is handled by different personnel; you are new to a company; or you are taking over the process from someone else.  You should have I-9 forms on file for all active employees hired after November 6, 1986, and for employees terminated within three years of the audit date.  Important: If a form is missing for a current employee, complete a new one, but do not backdate it.  Note and initial that the original form was lost and a new one was created.



State Laws

Many states have laws prohibiting employers from hiring unauthorized workers.  More states are requiring employers to proactively verify the employment status of new hires. For example, under Utah's Private Employer Verification Act, a private employer that employs 15 or more employees as of July 1, 2010, may not hire a new employee on or after July 1, 2010, unless the employer is registered with a status verification system such as E-Verify and uses the system to verify the legal working status of the new employee.  The good news for employers that comply is that they then can't be held liable under state law for the unlawful hiring of an unauthorized alien and can't be held liable under state law for the refusal to hire an individual whose information obtained in accordance with the status verification system indicates that he/she is an unauthorized alien.


However, Arizona recently went even further in its crackdown against employing unauthorized workers.  Arizona's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act stipulates, among other things, that it is unlawful for anyone in a stopped motor vehicle to attempt to hire or hire and pick up passengers for work at a different location.  The same law says it is also unlawful for a person who is unlawfully present in the U.S. and who is an unauthorized alien to knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public place, or perform work as an employee or independent contractor in Arizona.


Important: Always keep close tabs on your own state's latest employment authorization laws and developments.

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