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ICE sets new record for business audits this fiscal year

The government hasn't recently just cracked down on individuals who are in the country illegally; many businesses, too, are being investigated for hiring undocumented immigrants. This fiscal year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement audited the highest number of companies on suspicion of employing illegal immigrants, according to its own data.

ICE audited the employer I-9 forms of more than 3,000 businesses in fiscal year 2012, which was a dramatic increase from 250 businesses in fiscal year 2007. Additionally, companies that hired undocumented immigrants were fined nearly $13 million this fiscal year, compared to about $1 million in fiscal year 2009.

It is expected that President Obama will continue to focus on penalties for business owners who purposefully hire undocumented immigrants during his second term. An ICE spokesman said most companies that are audited do not end up with fines, but the audits work as a means of deterrence. He said companies are more likely to comply with immigration policies if they know they could be audited.

However, many immigrant advocates say the audits are unjust and forcing the undocumented immigrant population further underground. As an immigration policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute explained, the audits involve "the government making a subjective judgment about subjective judgment" made by employers, who are charged with verifying the identification documents provided by employees.

Additionally, business advocates say that it's unfair how businesses are randomly chosen for audits. They say either all businesses should get audited or no businesses should get audited. Currently, it appears that ICE chooses most of its subjects for audits based on tips from the public, other business owners and employees, but some businesses that are chosen randomly.

As you can see, it is very important for businesses to make sure that their hiring practices are in line with immigration laws. That's why many business owners seek out the advice of an immigration law firm that has experience with the complex rules and regulations governing business and employment-based immigration.

Source: Associated Press, "Audits of businesses for illegal immigrants rising," Manuel Valdes, Dec. 23, 2012

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