I-9 Audits & Worksite Raids Exploded in 2018: What’s Next and How Should Employers Prepare?

I-9 Audits and Immigration Arrests

All the recent intrigue over whether President Trump will get his “big, beautiful” wall on the southern U.S. border has obscured one surprising truth: a shocking spike in I-9 audits and worksite investigations means the Trump administration has already been building a “virtual wall” against illegal immigration for the past year.

As a result, your organization’s odds of facing a government inspection of its I-9 forms or even an on-site raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials rose dramatically in the past 12 months. Some of the scary stats:

  • I-9 audits up 300%. ICE initiated I-9 audits against 5,981 employers in fiscal 2018, compared with 1,360 the year before.
  • Worksite investigations up 300%. ICE opened 6,848 worksite investigations last year, up from 1,691 in 2017.
  • Arrests up 600%. ICE made 779 criminal arrests and 1,525 administrative arrests at workplaces (of both employees and managers) in 2018, compared with only 139 and 172 the year before.

ICE says cracking down on the hiring of undocumented workers “helps build another layer of border security.” Look for ICE to continue ramping up their employer raids and audits in 2019, especially if President Trump fails to get all the money he wants for his border wall.

So what, specifically, should employers expect on immigration in 2019. Here’s a quick synopsis from attorney John Fay, president of LawLogix, who will present a three-hour special workshop on immigration issues at LEAP 2019:

FORM I-9 AUDITS. Trend: Continuing and expanding. In 2019, expect ICE to continue to ramp up its worksite enforcement operations with an eye towards increasing audits by another 200% to 300% through an expansion of its audit mega-center known as the Employment Compliance Inspection Center. The agency has also hinted at other process and technology changes to increase audits, including electronically scanning the documents to help flag suspicious activity and serving Notices of Inspections electronically or by certified mail, instead of in person.

THE E-VERIFY PROGRAM. Trend: Continuing and expanding. Although the program is inaccessible during the government shutdown, E-Verify continues to make inroads, with enrollment now exceeding 800,000 employers at roughly 2.7 million worksites. This expansion has continued despite the “mostly voluntary” nature of the E-Verify program, due in part to government outreach programs and employers’ general concern over compliance.

I-9 & E-VERIFY PROCEDURES. Trend: More complexity on the horizon. The cumbersome I-9 process can sometimes feel like a giant step backwards in time. Alas, the Form I-9 rules are unlikely to improve in the near future and, in fact, the process could get even trickier, especially as it relates to foreign national employees impacted by President Trump’s immigration initiatives. Just this past year, many employers scrambled to figure out how to deal with employees in Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or those with DACA-based work permits.

The bottom line: To avoid the increased ICE scrutiny, 2019 is the year to ensure your HR department is in total compliance with new I-9, E-Verify, Visa and immigration rules. You’ll find the best insight and step-by-step compliance advice at LEAP 2019. Plus, you’ll have a fabulous time with your peers at the legendary Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

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