The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) has jurisdiction to review penalties imposed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for I-9 compliance violations. In calculating the amount of the penalty, OCAHO is not bound by ICE’s methodology.
In the matter of USA v. Century Hotels, Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed a four-count complaint alleging that the employer engaged in ninety-one violations. The total penalty sought was $89,806.75. Under Count IV, ICE alleged that the company had failed to prepare or present a Form I-9 for fifty-one individuals. Under Counts I, II and III, ICE alleged that the Forms I-9 presented by the company for a total of forty individuals were not properly completed. ICE also alleged that the individuals in Count III were unauthorized for employment.
Considering the record as a whole and the statutory factors in particular, OCAHO reduced the fine to $500 per Form I-9 for nineteen violations relating to the failure to prepare a Form I-9 in Count IV (the rest of the violations in Count IV were dismissed), totaling $9,500, and $400 per Form I-9 for forty violations in Counts I, II, and III, totaling $16,000. The total penalty was thus reduced to $25,500.
It is important to have an established procedure for handling government audits of your I-9 Forms and to contact experienced immigration counsel even before becoming the subject of an audit.