While the Rules Remain the Same, Fines Have Increased in Immigration Law Violations
Despite all of the sensationalist headlines regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the past couple of years, and headlining the current line-up of controversial topics in this presidential election year, the last two years have witnessed a significant decrease in workplace audits. This lull in is about to come to a screeching halt, with a new Department of Justice (DOJ) rule issued on June 30, 2016 that will result in penalty fines increasing anywhere between 35 and 96 percent. The new rule took effect August 1.
There are two main areas of focus in assessing these greatly inflated fines: 1) the employment of individuals without work authorization; and 2) Form I-9 paperwork violations.
Prior to the increase, the employment of a single unauthorized worker resulted in fines ranging from a minimum of $375 to a maximum of $3,200. The same violation will now range from $539 to $4,313. Employers with multiple violations, which originally resulted in penalties ranging from $4,300 to $16,000, will now be faced with fines ranging from $6,469 to $21,563.
Form I-9 paperwork violations will see an even more significant percentage increase in fines. Originally ranging between $110 and $1,100 per violation, the number doubles to $216 to $2,156 in each instance, and systemic I-9 errors for even mid-size employers could easily result in a $50,000 fine from the ICE.
We always encourage employers to review their immigration compliance policies on an ongoing basis, but also a key take-away here in defending any employment-related investigation is your ability to demonstrate your company is proactive and acts in good faith in your hiring decisions. And, because this is a tricky and highly specialized area of the law, you should always seek the assistance of an immigration attorney.
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