For the last three years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has conducted a series of high-profile enforcement actions against employers.
In conducting this new enforcement effort, not only is ICE aggressively pursuing civil penalties against employers who have unauthorized workers, but they are using broad new criminal enforcement methods and strategies to uncover and investigate possible violations. In a stark departure from legacy INS, the Agency is actively pursuing criminal actions against companies, as well as their owners, executives, managers and human resource personnel.
The difference in approach is remarkable. Fiscal year 2002 worksite enforcement actions resulted in only 25 criminal arrests (including arrests of corporate officers, managers, human resource employees and contractors). In 2007, the numbers grew to 863 criminal arrests. In 2007, ICE also collected over $30 million in criminal fines, restitutions and civil judgments in worksite enforcement cases.
The pace has only increased. In 2008, ICE made 1,103 criminal arrests tied to worksite enforcement. Of the individuals criminally arrested, 135 were owners, managers, supervisors, or human resource employees. These criminal prosecutions are expected to continue under the Obama Administration which has vowed to aggressively pursue employers.
The efforts to target employers of unauthorized workers have not been limited to the federal level. As the federal government has stalled in its efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, states have stepped in to fill the void. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of November 16, 2007, no fewer than 1562 immigration related bills have been introduced in various states and approximately 244 of those bills have become law. State legislatures introduced almost three times more bills in 2007 than in 2006, and many of those bills target employers who do not properly verify the employment eligibility of their workforce. The volume of state immigration-related bills has continued to increase throughout 2008. As of June 30, 2008, 1404 immigration-related bills and resolutions were considered and 182 of these bills have become law.
As a result, employers must comply not only with federal law, but with an ever-increasing patchwork of state laws. We work with employers to insure their compliance with the many regulations on both state and federal levels. Advice is provided on I-9 compliance, Social Security Administration mismatch letters, E-Verify, I-9 and H-1B audits, and the applicability of new and evolving state laws and investigations that could lead to criminal sanctions.