Are your I-9s in order? Now that the federal government shutdown has ended, inspectors from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are back on the job—and they’re looking for employers that don’t properly document their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.
To do so, they’re carefully examining I-9 forms, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form that employers must maintain for all employees.
It’s all part of a pattern of increased work site enforcement by ICE—now in its fourth year—that shows no sign of slowing down.
In 2012, ICE inspected more than 3,000 businesses to check for I-9 compliance—and collected nearly $13 million in fines.
That tenacity is continuing this year, as a Washington state construction subcontractor recently learned the hard way. Rather than filling out I-9s with information from new hires’ driver’s licenses or Social Security cards, Ketchikan Drywall Services simply made photocopies of those documents and stapled them to the I-9s.
Not good enough, said the court. “Retaining documents is neither necessary nor sufficient for compliance,” it said. Those omissions were deemed “substantive violations,” resulting in a $173,000 fine for problems uncovered on 500 different I-9 forms. (Ketchikan v. ICE, No. 10A00034, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 2013)
Note: If you do retain copies of employees’ documentation, do it across the board for all employees’ I-9s so you can avoid discrimination complaints.
Official guidance available
It’s up to you to stay on the right side of the law. To help, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released an updated version of its I-9 Handbook for Employers.
You can view and download the updated version from the USCIS website.
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