Immigration enforcement is undertaken by ICE – the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are the principal investigative arm of the US Department of Homeland Security, and enforcement is trending. In FY 2010, ICE Homeland Security Investigations conducted more than 2,200 I-9 audits of employers. In FY 2011, ICE conducted over 3,000 I-9 audits. Employers paid over $10 million in civil fines.
Meanwhile, in 2011, the ICE Employer Compliance Inspection Center opened. Staffed with 25 full time auditors, this center allows ICE to inspect I-9s of the largest companies. When dealing with aliens and immigration issues, companies need to be sure they have the proper documentation on file for all employees to be sure they’re meeting their legal obligations.
In a BLR webinar titled "IRS and ICE Audit Alert: How to Avoid and Manage Payroll and Recordkeeping Scrutiny," Jeffrey S. Bell and Mary K. Samsa outlined further information about ICE, why you might get audited, and what to expect if that happens.
ICE and Immigration Enforcement
ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They now have more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries.
With respect to immigration enforcement, ICE’s stated policy is:
Worksite enforcement actions target a key component of the illicit support structure that enables illegal immigration to flourish. No employer, regardless of industry or location, is immune from complying with the nation’s laws. ICE and our law enforcement partners will continue to bring all of our authorities to bear in this fight using criminal charges, asset seizures, administrative arrests and deportation.
Immigration Enforcement: Why Might Your Company Be Audited?
Bell noted that "the first question a company typically asks if being subjected to an ICE enforcement investigation is why is my company being investigated? There are three main reasons: random audits, lead-driven investigations, and tips from other federal or state agencies."
Certain industries are known to employ unauthorized workers, which can be a trigger for random audits. It’s also quite common for complaints to drive lead-driven investigations, which can arise from unhappy current or former employees or from competitors, especially if they lose a bid and suspect that the lower bid was due to lower wages paid to undocumented workers. Finally, over the last couple of years, government agencies have been more and more willing to share information, which can lead to tips from other agencies, such as the DOL Wage and Hour Division or the IRS triggering an ICE investigation.
In a related article, Samsa and Bell discuss the anatomy of an ICE investigation (i.e., what you can expect).
For more information on immigration enforcement and managing immigration recordkeeping requirements, order the webinar recording. To register for a future webinar, visit http://catalog.blr.com/audio.
Attorney Mary Samsa with McDermott Will & Emery LLP has been an employee benefit/executive compensation/payroll practitioner in the legal arena for more than 16 years. Prior to that, she was a tax accountant for nearly ten years before becoming an attorney. She is well-versed in tax audits and addressing potential organizational issues before they become problematic.
Jeff Bell is of counsel with Polsinelli Shughart PCand has been an attorney focusing almost exclusively on immigration law and issues relating to employer compliance for 19 years. He is well-versed on the issues confronting employers in complying with the maze of immigration laws and regulations regarding the hiring of employees and how best to manage immigration compliance processes.