This article was written with the assistance of Anagha Prasad

As reported earlier in the week by the Wall Street Journal, over 2,300 businesses this year have been subject to a worksite audit by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).  These audits, which can be quite burdensome, are part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to curb illegal immigration. 

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), it is illegal for an employer to knowingly hire and employ an illegal immigrant.  IRCA thus requires an employer to verify each employee’s work authorization and record pertinent information on a Form I-9.  An employer that violates IRCA may be subject to criminal and civil sanctions, including incarceration.  

Major companies throughout the United States have recently come under fire for their employment of unauthorized workers, including Chipotle Mexican Grill.  The Wall Street Journal reports that Chipotle, as a result of the ICE investigation, has spent roughly $1.3 million in legal fees. 

To avoid harsh criminal and civil sanctions, and to save on enormous legal costs, employers need to develop a comprehensive internal policy that incorporates sound advice from the fields of immigration, employment, and criminal law.  Click here for a general overview of issues related to IRCA compliance.   

In short, a relatively small investment in worksite compliance today will save a company and its executives significant hardship in the future.