One can barely turn on the news (or look at Twitter) without hearing about the current Administration’s immigration views and policies. The topic has become so highly politicized that it can be easy to miss the actual details of new rules and regulations. Employers must pay close attention, though, and be sure they are staying current with the changing regulations. At a recent event titled “Enforcing U.S. Immigration Laws: A Top Priority for the Trump Administration,” keynote speaker and Acting Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) said that his agency will be cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. He recently instructed Homeland Security Investigation to increase the amount of time spent on work site enforcement “by four to five times.” He also promised that the number of worksite inspections would significantly increase “in the next fiscal year.” Why? According to Homan, “unless you remove the magnets… they’re gonna keep coming… . As long as they’re coming to get a job, they’ll try to come. So we are stepping up work site enforcement…”
What does this mean for employers?
Employers should expect an increased likelihood of employment immigrant audits, with or without advanced notice. This is likely to come in the form of I-9 audits. For this reason, employers are encouraged to periodically conduct internal Form I-9 audits with the assistance of counsel, to ensure that I-9 forms are being correctly completed and appropriate records are being maintained. Employers must also ensure that the correct Form I-9 is being used, as the approved form frequently changes. The most recent version was released in July 2017 and became mandatory on September 18, 2017. Any errors discovered in the audit should be immediately remedied. Employers should also consider providing training to their HR professionals in I-9 compliance and policies. Both substantive and technical violations alike will result in penalties anywhere from $220 to $2,156 per employee’s I-9.
Employers in states or cities that have declared as “sanctuary cities/states” have an even more complicated burden. For example, California’s “sanctuary state” legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2018. California employers, then, will be prohibited from voluntarily allowing federal immigration enforcement agents into non-public work areas or access to employee records without a warrant. The legislation also places specific requirements for both pre-inspection and post-inspection notice to employees. Failure to comply with sanctuary state legislation will subject California employers to civil penalties between $2,000 to $5,000 per employee for the first violation, and $5,000 to $10,000 for each subsequent violation.
Employers are encouraged to perform internal audits of their policies and practices before or around the start of 2018, and to seek the advice of counsel well-versed in both employment and immigration regulations, for assistance in navigating these tricky waters.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Melissa M. Whitehead at [email protected] or (916) 472-3306.