The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), is expanding its investigation of 1,000 companies and, as part of that investigation, is asking them to turn over their employment records. This, no doubt, is part of part of the crackdown, or “silent raids,” on company employers. Moreover, this is the biggest operation since 2009.

Bloomberg reports that as of January 2009, 3,580 companies have had their I-9 forms examined against Social Security Administration, State Department, and Homeland Security databases to verify worker eligibility – and, that these investigations have led to a record $54 million in fines.

ICE officers will be visiting employers in upcoming days to serve notices of investigations, which will provide formal notification of the documents they should turn over. The required documents include original I-9 forms, copy of employers’ payroll, and others.

Last month we reported that John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had announced the creation of an employment compliance inspection center in Arlington, VA, and that the center will house 15 new I-9 auditors who will help field offices around the country to expedite Form I-9 audits. We also reported that Morton said, “Many of our regional offices or our local offices simply don’t have the manpower to conduct that kind of inspection or investigation” to audit US employers and that the new center will “ensure that we have the capacity to do a lot of large-scale audits.” We predicted then that the Obama Administration would continue targeting employers for I-9 compliance. The creation of such a center, dedicated exclusively to I-9 audits, was and is unprecedented and indicative that compliance will not only continue, but also is likely to increase.

Once again, in light of the present news and with employers facing such a multitude of potential penalties and sanctions, employers may want to consider taking proactive steps, such as putting their I-9 compliance “houses” in order and not delaying the auditing of their I-9 forms.