USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers conducted a half-day training at the USCIS District Office in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. USCIS and ICE did a great job. They presented “something for everyone” regardless of level of expertise in the areas of I-9 and E-Verify. Employers who attended the training undoubtedly received a “leg up” on I-9 and E-Verify compliance.
The questions posted by the attendees were enlightening and reflected “real life” scenarios. A question that stood out was what an employer should do if a new hire indicated that he was a US citizen in Section One of the I-9, but presented a “green card” to demonstrate work authorization. A lively discussion from the presenters followed, and a few attendees chimed in as well. I was impressed that the question was actually covered in the M-274 Handbook:
Q14: An employee has attested to being a U.S. citizen or U.S. noncitizen national on Section 1 of Form I-9, but has presented me with Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, or “green card.” Another employee has attested to being a lawful permanent resident but has presented a U.S. passport. Should I accept these documents?
A. In these situations, you should first ensure that the employee understood and properly completed the Section 1 attestation of status. If the employee made a mistake and corrects the attestation, he or she should initial and date the correction, or complete a new Form I-9. If the employee confirms the accuracy of his or her initial attestation, you should not accept a “green card” from a U.S. citizen or a U.S. passport from an alien. Although you are not expected to be an immigration law expert, both documents in question are inconsistent with the status attested to and are, therefore, not documents that reasonably related to the person presenting them.
After the training, I read the M-274 Handbook again and found that it covered nearly every question that was raised by the attendees during the training. The Handbook is a great resource to employers and should be mandatory reading for anyone with the responsibility for I-9s.
Employers should bookmark “I-9 Central” on their web browsers. At www.dhs.gov/e-verify, “I-9 Central” is the second item on the right hand column. It has useful information on how to complete the I-9, which documents are acceptable, how long to keep an I-9, etc. Employers can also download the entire M-274 Handbook from I-9 Central.
Last but not least, there will be situations in which employers feel caught between “a rock and a hard place” when reviewing a document presented by a new hire that looks questionable but are fearful to take action because of the potential for discrimination. ICE recommended that employers contact the Office of Special Counsel, and speak to a live person, if desired anonymously. The phone number is 800-255-8155. There is also a number for employees, 800-255-7688.
ICE enforces the law and dishes out fines, but we should not forget that its primary role is enforcing immigration law. However, ICE also tries to educate the public. These workshops and training sessions for employers are free, and employers should take advantage of them. After making these resources available, ICE may feel there is no excuse for non-compliance. Employers be warned.