Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement Settlement Applying its Internal Guidelines for Assessing Fines: Even Good Faith Mistakes on Your I-9s Can Be Expensive

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is at it again, settling on a substantial amount with a company that, in good faith, used an electronic I-9 storage system that ICE deemed defective. Last September, ICE announced a $1,047,110 settlement reached with the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act relating to its obligation to verify the employment eligibility of its workers.

Shift in ICE Strategy Focuses on Employers and Their I-9 Employment Verification Process

As of 2009, ICE has shifted its strategy to pursue the employer of an illegal workforce rather than the alien worker. An I-9 inspection is a less expensive way to enforce US immigration law rather than a full-blown raid. The specter of an audit has the added benefit of deterring employers and stopping the attraction of US jobs to illegal workers. Speaking to the Abercrombie & Fitch settlement, Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations for Ohio and Michigan said:

"Employers are responsible not only for the people they hire but also for the internal systems they choose to utilize to manage their employment process and those systems must result in effective compliance… This settlement should serve as a warning to other companies that may not yet take the employment verification process seriously or provide it the attention it warrants."

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