Temperatures aren’t the only things heating up this week. On Wednesday, June 15, the Obama administration shifted the ever-intensifying immigration dialogue back to federal turf when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will begin conducting its second round of immigration audits this year.
Authorities with ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, declined to name the businesses that will be targeted or their locations, but at least 1,000 companies soon will be subject to inspection of their I-9 forms and other hiring records. The businesses range in size and reportedly include those “critical to infrastructure and key resources.”
The goal of these investigations is to ensure that companies of all sizes and in all states are hiring only individuals who are authorized to work in the United States. A similar round of audits was conducted in February, bringing the total for the fiscal year to a record 2,338 audits. Additionally, over $7 million in fines have already been assessed against employers found in violation of federal immigration laws.
Hector A. Chichoni, a partner with the Florida law firm of Duane Morris LLP and chair of the firm’s immigration practice, weighed in with his thoughts on the ICE announcement: “The Obama administration has targeted employers since the beginning. It is disappointing to hear about this new round of audits, but not surprising. We predicted that a new wave of audits would take place in January 2011, when ICE announced the establishment of a new Employment Compliance Inspection Center to centralize the processing and review of I-9 employment eligibility verification forms. This new center gives ICE the ability to pursue a large number of I-9 audits simultaneously. The sad reality is that these audits create more problems than they solve. They are very costly to employers, and in times of economic downturn, they have a tremendous impact in terms of loss of productivity and are expensive to defend them. U.S. employers need creative immigration solutions that will allow them to strengthen our economy, not I-9 audits.”
Learn more about immigration laws that affect employers in Mastering HR: Immigration