The question of how the new Obama administration will handle worksite enforcement has finally been answered, and the answer is very aggressive. On July 1st U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the start of a new I-9 audit initiative by issuing Notices of Inspection (NOI) to 652 businesses. The companies have been instructed that they have three (3) days to present the I-9 forms for active and terminated employees to ICE so it can determine whether the companies are complying with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

The 652 new inspections signal a new direction in enforcement strategy, since in 2008 ICE only issued 503 NOIs. It is clear that these inspections will be an important tool for ICE in targeting employers involved in hiring unauthorized workers and other violations of the immigration laws. The ICE press release states that "The 652 businesses being presented with a NOI yesterday for a Form I-9 audit have been selected for inspection as a result of leads and information obtained through other investigative means." Normally, ICE targets specific employers and industries, receives tips and considers social security mismatch data. The 652 inspections involve a cross-section of employers of different sizes, locations and industries.

It is more important than ever for every employer to make sure that its I-9 procedures comply with IRCA, including having an updated compliance plan. According to the ICE press release "Under this strategy, ICE is focusing its resources on the auditing and investigations of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers. The nationwide initiative launched yesterday is a result of this new strategy."