The Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits with the DHS Office of the Inspector General, Mark Bell, has made three recommendations for improving ICE’s implementation of its worksite enforcement strategy based on an audit of the agency (www.oig.dhs.gov).  ICE is the DHS agency responsible for implementing the nation’s worksite enforcement strategy and protecting employment opportunities for the nation’s lawful workforce. 

One of President Obama’s first acts was to revamp ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy to give priority to identifying employers who knowingly hire illegal workers and to use all available civil and administrative tools to penalize and deter illegal employment.

From fiscal years 2009 through 2012, Congress allocated about $531 million to fund and implement ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy.  Over that same period, ICE conducted 9,140 administrative I-9 inspections, issuing about $31.2 million in civil fines to employers.

The recommendations to ICE are as follows:

  1. Enforce its oversight procedures to ensure consistent application of the worksite enforcement strategy administrative inspection process nationwide.
  2. Develop a process to evaluate the effectiveness of the administrative inspection process and modify the process based on the evaluation.
  3. Direct Homeland Security Investigations field offices to provide consistent, accurate, and timely reporting of information on worksite administrative inspections.

Although Mr. Bell’s audit concluded ICE’s I-9 inspection process met the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act, he determined ICE failed to monitor or evaluate adequately the performance or outcomes of the process among its field offices, the Homeland Security Investigations’ headquarters did not adequately oversee the offices to ensure they were consistent in issuing warnings and fines—finding some issued significantly more warnings than fines, and some field offices negotiated fines with employers—significantly reducing the amount—while others did not. 

Employers should anticipate that more fines from ICE, instead of warnings.  There also is expected to be less interest in reducing these assessments and more activity in regions that tended to have fewer inspections.   The number of inspections also may increase overall.  ICE likely will redouble efforts in monitoring field office activity, encouraging them to conduct inspections in a more consistent fashion, and encouraging more precision in the internal deliberation supporting the fine assessment.