Since Trump took office in 2017, there has been a sharp increase in audits to verify that employees are authorized to work in the United States. And there are plans to further increase the pressure on employers.
Employers who are found to be noncompliant may be subject to hefty administrative fines and even criminal prosecution in some cases.
A Look at the Numbers So Far
Between October 2016 and September 2017, only 1,360 audits were opened. From October 2017 through May 4, an astounding 2,282 employer audits were opened. That’s already an almost 60% increase on the previous time period, and there are still many months left.
According to the Associated Press, Derek Benner, head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, said that the total could reach well over 5,000 by September 30, since another wave of audits is planned for the summer. The previous ICE audit peak was 3,127 in 2013.
The agency wants to keep the pressure on long-term. It has developed a plan to create an Employer Compliance Inspection Center that will move forward if there is enough funding and support. The goal is to create a “reasonable expectation” among employers that they will be subject to an audit.
Employer audits would be performed at that single location instead of at various regional offices as is the process now. And audit notices would be served electronically or by mail instead of in person. The most egregious cases would be sent to regional offices for further investigation.
This plan would allow the agency to open as many as 15,000 audits each year.
What Does This Mean for Employers?
This sharp increase in audits means a substantially higher risk for employers who may be skating by now.
Due to immigration law’s complexity, many employers are unaware of I-9 errors or issues, and they could be in for a costly surprise, especially under the plan for an Employer Compliance Inspection Center.
The best way to protect you and your organization is to be proactive. Work with an immigration compliance lawyer to educate your team and run internal audits. This proactive approach is a mitigating factor on fines.
Many errors are correctable, and you can also ensure your team knows how to prevent issues from occurring in the first place.