In reaction to an increasingly hostile climate to illegal immigration in the United States, federal agencies charged with enforcing immigration laws have stepped up prosecutions of U.S. employers found to be knowingly employing unauthorized workers. The most direct route to fining and prosecuting American employers for employing unauthorized workers is through surprise audits of I-9 files kept by employers.
In the past two years, the Obama Administration has shifted immigration enforcement policy from targeting undocumented workers through workplace raids to targeting employers who employ undocumented workers through I-9 audits, fines, and criminal prosecutions. The administration’s focus on prosecuting employers rather than unauthorized workers seeks to eliminate the attraction that draws undocumented immigrants to the United States – jobs. This shift in strategy was announced in 2009 by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who said that the new worksite enforcement effort would emphasize criminal prosecution of employers that knowingly hire illegal workers.
Recently, the federal government announced that it intends to increase the number of I-9 audits and establish an audit office called the Employment Compliance Inspection Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It will be staffed with specialists to review I-9 files.
The new enforcement focus was recently implemented when ICE agents held a meeting with trainers during a meet at a large racetrack and nicely, but firmly, announced their intent to enforce I-9 compliance regulations in the stable area of the track in the near future. The officers explained that this time they were visiting wearing suits, but that if they received information that unauthorized employment was occurring, the next time they returned, they would be wearing badges and arresting people.
Click here to read "When ICE Comes to Visit: Simple Ways to Protect Yourself from Criminal Liability" from the Spring 2011 issue of The Horsemen's Journal to find out what you need to do to comply with immigration regulations and protect yourself against potential problems regarding your employees' immigration status.