A little over a year ago, we informed our readers that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was looking to potentially quintuple its worksite enforcement actions for Fiscal Year 2018. The agency recently released its end-of-year statistics in a press release, describing its own activities as a “surge.”These numbers speak for themselves. Employers of all sizes – regardless of whether they employ foreign workers – need to take notice that ICE is becoming more aggressive in worksite enforcement and ensure that their employment policies and procedures are in order.

Per the press release, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has seen a tremendous increase in worksite investigations, I-9 audits, and other worksite-related arrests as of the end of FY2018 (ending on Sept. 30, 2018) compared to statistics as of FY2017. These increases average between 300-750% above the previous year’s findings.To put these statistics into perspective, HSI opened 6,848 worksite investigations this year compared to a mere 1,691 in FY2017. Most shockingly, this includes a 439% increase in Form I-9 audits compared to FY 2017, a development we have covered at length for our readers.

Beyond Form I-9 audits, HSI made a total of 1,993 more criminal and worksite-related arrests.In FY2018, the level of judicial fines, forfeitures and restitutions totaled over $10.2 million dollars, however these figures are expected to rise significantly in FY2019 due to the high number of ongoing investigations that will take months or even years to fully resolve.

Per the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, federal law requires all U.S. employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of all employees working in the U.S. Stemming from the heavy-handed practices of the Trump Administration, HSI will continue to target civil and criminal prosecution of employers in 2019 with an emphasis on levying fines against those who violate Form I-9 requirements. We expect high-profile, headline-grabbing criminal prosecutions of employers who have a pattern and practice of knowingly employing unauthorized workers. We also expect a constant stream of press releases from ICE regarding civil violations relating to Form I-9 violations, marring employers’ reputations in the public square.

ICE’s published statistics mirror our own experience in 2018, as our firm has received an unprecedented number of inquiries from employers receiving visits from HSI. We strongly advise that employers should take proactive and/or remedial measures – such as internal Form I-9 audits -- in order to avoid the costly and unfavorable consequences of ICE audits that can damage businesses and their employees’ welfare.