With the discussion of immigration, refugees, and “illegals” on the increase lately, it’s an important time to make sure your business is prepared for an inspection. ICE raids are a real concern, especially for the border states in our region: California, Arizona and New Mexico. If a raid or a claim were to happen for your business, the consequences and fines are real and significant, up to $10,000 per illegal employee.
The first thing you can do to fortify your business is to complete the form I-9 for each new employee on your payroll, on their first day of employment. The form I-9 is a basic new hire form that is filled out in part by the employee and in part by the authorized rep of the employer. It requires that you look at documentation to establish the eligibility to work in the US. It’s very important to make sure that the form is filled out correctly. In an audit, even if the form is filled out incorrectly but all documentation is sufficient, there are fines that could be assessed.
If you have legal resident aliens working in your business, be sure that you update the form I-9 as required. As their documents expire, you are required to update their form I-9. If you have not updated the form or perhaps have not completed the form at all, you should get that done ASAP. Never back date a form. If your form does not coincide with the date of hire, simply tell an auditor that upon an internal audit, it was found that a form was missing.
Know your state and industry requirements for the use of E-Verify. E-Verify is an online program run by the Department of Homeland Security, that verifies the information entered into the form I-9 with the data that is on record. A handful of states, including Arizona, as well as specific industries, especially government, require the use of E-Verify for all employees hired. Employees must be run through the system within 2 business days of hire. Be sure to check your state and industry requirements because while it is required for some, it is banned for others.
What should you do if ICE shows up at your door? If they are conducting an I-9 audit, they should provide you with at least 3 days’ notice before the audit takes place. If ICE agents come to your place of business, they are allowed in all public spaces, but do not have the right to enter the private area(s) of a workplace without either the employer’s permission or a warrant. If presented with a warrant or notification of an I-9 audit, the employer must comply. Rarely do ICE agents enter a workplace with specific suspicion of an employer, it is much more likely that they are targeting a specific employee or employees.
As with all employee related matters, the key to limiting your exposure to these risks is in preparing BEFORE a problem arises. Perform regular audits of your I-9 paperwork and E-Verify documentation. If you’re not sure where to start, or find irregularities, it’s a good idea to get an expert on board to get you back into compliance.