ICE Agents have been active recently in the Prince William area and other parts of the VA/DC/MD metropolitan area, investigating businesses (especially small and medium companies) to determine compliance with properly completing and retaining I-9 forms. Employers in industries involving construction, restaurants, landscaping, and janitorial/cleaning services are frequently (but by no means the only) targets of ICE investigations.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (an agency within the Department of Homeland Security) has significantly increased its efforts to reduce unlawful immigration employment practices under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Employers are legally required to verify the identity of the person they hire and to confirm that they are eligible to work in the United States. The law further requires that employers document this process by completing a Form I-9 for each person they hire.
ICE has focused enforcement efforts on employers who hire an illegal workforce. They follow up on tips provided by the public and conduct random and unannounced audits of employer records to determine if the company has complied with its legal obligations. They do not need probable cause to investigate your business nor do they need to have a tip.
I-9 Forms and ICE’s Notice of Inspection
The mandatory I-9 forms must be completed every time you make a new hire. The form must be retained for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later. If ICE has been given a tip or the business has been selected for an audit, ICE will present you with a Notice of Inspection.
What to Expect from an ICE Inspection
The notice of inspection usually requests the following records from the company:
- I-9 records
- Payroll records
- No-match and mismatch letters
Upon notice, you have three business days to provide the investigating officers with the requested documents.
Civil and Criminal Penalties
Failure of employers to comply with IRCA can result in substantial civil fines and ultimately, possible criminal prosecution if you are found to have knowingly violated the law.
What To Do If ICE Agents Present You With A Notice of Inspection Regarding Your I-9s
- Do not provide records immediately or allow an immediate inspection of records as you have up to three days to respond.
- Call your trusted employment lawyer in order to advise you on the best course of action and to timely respond with the proper documents presented in the best light possible.
Ensuring Compliance Before ICE Investigates
If you have not yet been the subject of an investigation, you can take steps to protect your business. Employers should conduct confidential internal audits of your I-9 forms with the help of your employment lawyer. This process can help you correct any potential problems before an inspection and avoid possible fines. It is also beneficial to have knowledgeable employment counsel conduct periodic training of your personnel assigned to handle your I-9s.
Contact a Trusted Employment Law Attorney
Kristina Keech Spitler, Esq., with Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian is ready to help your business respond to an ICE inspection, provide a confidential internal Form I-9 audit, and/or help train your personnel to properly complete and retain I-9 forms.
Kristina Keech Spitler is a Shareholder and Head of the Employment Law Practice of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC. With over thirty years of experience, Kris has been recognized as “Legal Elite” in Employment Law by Virginia Business Magazine, as well as a “Leader in the Law” and an “Influential Women of Law” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly. You can reach Kris at (703)369-4738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
** The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.