Government narrows in on businesses employing undocumented immigrants

The U.S. government has initiated a recent crackdown on employers suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants by notifying several businesses in the nation that they must submit appropriate documentation for audits.

According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") investigates hiring documents in an effort to validate compliance with employment laws. These silent investigations have hit agriculture, manufacturing, food processing and restaurant industries - companies that employ thousands.

Audits do not necessarily result in the deportation of a company's undocumented immigrants; however, such persons, if discovered, will definitely lose their jobs. For employers discovered to have employed undocumented workers, the investigation can result in several production losses. Moreover, they will inevitably face criminal fines.

In the investigative process, ICE generally requests the following:

  • I-9 employee eligibility papers.
  • Payroll sheets.
  • Work rosters.

Once ICE receives requisite paperwork, the agency sends a "notice of suspect documents" to businesses with mismatched or unofficial employee names, Social Security numbers or fake IDs. Then, employers are forced to give notice to employees that they must step down from their positions unless official documents are provided. After undocumented employees are uncovered, the agency issues fines for clerical mistakes on forms as well as the employment of undocumented individuals.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last four years, the government has audited approximately 10,000 businesses suspected of employing undocumented laborers. Moreover, it has imposed fines over $100 million.

Furthermore, the Pew Hispanic Center notes that over 10 million undocumented immigrants live in the country today, and eight million are employed in the workforce in some fashion. In fact, most agricultural immigrant employees are unauthorized. Yet, ICE audits are primarily directed toward eating establishments.

Sometimes, employers employ harsh measures to clear their names. They may request too much information from workers. Such actions may be deemed discriminatory. For example, in July 2013, Macy's, the department store chain, had to pay fines and alter its employment practices and polices after employees voiced concerns regarding discriminatory practices involving immigrant employees. This led to a Justice Department investigation.

Many businesses are struggling with immigration compliance issues in the nation. If you are a company being investigated by authorities, contact an experienced immigration law attorney. Your firm does not want to be slapped with fines and subsequent repercussions for egregious employment violations. A lawyer will help you gather requisite documents and forms that are required to prepare your case.