Immigration Officials Target Employers In The Southeast 4/10/2010 Hector A. Chichoni

As appeared in Money Market Magazine on April 10, 2010.

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it was expanding its worksite enforcement strategy in the Southeastern United States. As part of this strategy, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the agency with the homeland security office directly responsible for worksite enforcement, indicated that it is issuing Notices of Inspections to 180 businesses in Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

At least 30 such notices have been sent to employers in Tennessee and another 30 or so to employers located in southern and central Alabama. Immigration officials have not yet disclosed the targeted employers' names.

Authorities notify employers that they will be inspecting their employment verification records to determine whether they are complying with all employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. Also, the notices are accompanied by subpoenas requiring employers to provide a long list of documents such as: a list of current and terminated employees with hired and termination dates, names, social security numbers, and dates of birth; quarterly wage and hour reports and/or payroll data for all employees covering the period of inspection; quarterly tax statements; and all correspondence with the Social Security Administration, including "no-match" letters.

Inspections are one of the most powerful tools that the federal government uses to enforce employment and immigration laws. In July 2009, authorities sent similar notices to 652 businesses nationwide. And an additional 1,000 notices were sent in November to employers associated with critical infrastructure.

There is no doubt that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is making a renewed effort to focus on holding employers accountable for their hiring practices.

Businesses need comprehensive employment verification and related compliance plans in place because the civil and potentially criminal consequences of this enforcement strategy can be severe. Businesses that ignore this important aspect of their operations can face substantial fines that make compliance now not only good corporate citizenship, but also good risk management.

It is expected that more notices will be issued in the near future. I encourage employers to conduct internal I-9 audits and put their internal immigration compliance programs in order.