In an April 30, 2009 press release, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advised it had revised its worksite enforcement guidance for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to reflect "a renewed Department-wide focus targeting criminal aliens and employers who cultivate illegal workplaces by breaking the country's laws and knowingly hiring illegal workers." While ICE will continue to arrest and process for removal any illegal workers who are found in the course of worksite enforcement actions, the worksite enforcement program will now focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.
Despite the stated focus on criminal violations, all US employers should take note that they are now the primary target for ICE investigations. The release further emphasized, "ICE will use all available civil and administrative tools, including civil fines and debarment, to penalize and deter illegal employment." Therefore, we continue to recommend vigilance in self-policing of employee verification and I-9 compliance. Employers should establish policies and conduct periodic training of their hiring personnel to ensure proper completion and maintenance of form I-9 and, if applicable, E-Verify.