ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was formed in 2003 “as part of the federal government’s response to the 9/11 attacks and its mission is to protect the security of the American people and homeland by vigilantly enforcing the nation’s immigration and customs laws.” With an annual budget of more than $5 billion and more than 19,000 employees in over 400 offices in the U.S. and around the world, ICE is the largest investigative agency in the United States Department of Homeland Security. ICE may conduct raids or sweeps at a particular place of business. ICE can also send Notices of Inspections to employers to alert them that it will be inspecting their I-9s and hiring records to determine whether or not they are complying with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. ICE’s increased focus is on holding employers accountable for their hiring practices and their efforts to ensure a legal workforce. ICE also seeks to ensure that employers are compliant with I-9 forms and hiring records.
In the event of audits or raids, employers’ non-compliance may result in civil penalties and lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution of employers who have knowingly violated the law. According to ICE’s Assistant Secretary John Morton, “ICE is focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces.” He added that ICE is “increasing criminal and civil enforcement of immigration-related employment laws and imposing smart, tough employer sanctions to even the playing field for employers who play by the rules.”
While the presence of illegal aliens at a business does not necessarily mean the employer is responsible, consulting with legal counsel is paramount to limiting your potential exposure in your hiring practices.