new i-9 penalties

The Department of Homeland Security has announced higher monetary penalties against businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, the first increase in such fines in nearly a decade.  Under the plan, which becomes effective March 27, the minimum penalty for willingly hiring an unauthorized worker would go from $275 to $375. The maximum penalty will jump from $2,200 to $3,200, and the maximum for multiple violations will increase from $11,000 to $16,000.

This announcement is the latest development in the government’s recent determination to more aggresively enforce compliance with I-9 procedures, which has included the hiring of 1,000 more enforcement officers.

In remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Mukasey at a Briefing on Immigration Enforcement and Border Security Efforts, Secretary Chertoff stated:

“I am delighted to say as part of our effort to continue to make it less appealing for people to break the law, we will soon publish a regulation with the Department of Justice to increase civil fines on employers as we announced last August. This is again, a way to keep that pressure up to make sure people are compliant with the law.”

The increases were published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2008.

For a complete text of Secretary Chertoff’s remarks, please visit the DHS website at: http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1203722713615.shtm.

One of the things we are learning from the present impasse in Congress on immigration legislation is that the government is likely to be more severe in enforcing compliance with the rules of maintaining every employee’s (U.S citizens as well as foreign nationals) employment eligibility verification (Form I-9 documentation).

Many employers are now concerned that their compliance with the law with respect to maintenance of I-9 verification of their employees’ right to work may be inadequate and result in high fines or other serious enforcement action.  This is partly based on the fact that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has recently begun a program of many large scale enforcement actions which has frightened many employers into looking into their immigration compliance.   Employers would be well advised to review their records at this time.        

We stand ready to educate your staff on I-9 compliance procedures and conduct in-house training/audits of your forms, as needed.

Any inquiries regarding Form I-9 and employer compliance issues in general should be directed to partner Michael Wildes at mwildes@wildesweinberg.com.

For Further Information On How We Can Help Your Firm Meet Its Employment Eligibility Verification Obligations, Please Contact Amy Wildes At amy@wildeslaw.com

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