This article appeared in the Miami Herald a few days ago and confirmed my suspicion that ICE was cracking down on employers who possibly hire undocumented workers.
This immigration lawyer has seen an unusual uptick in I-9 Notice of Inspection cases at my office. I see those types of immigration cases about once every few years, but recently, I saw three in the past six months (two in the past 60 days).
What exactly is an I-9 case or a Notice of Inspection? Many small employers who do not have an HR department may not be aware of the paperwork requirements under federal immigration law. For example, each time an employer hires a new employee, they must get a completed I-9 form, together with the normal W-4 and other new employee paperwork.
The I-9 form process is full of traps, so ICE knows that any small employer is an easy target. If any employer fails to perfectly complete the form for each new hire, there are fines for EVERY mistake on each form. That means there can be thousands of dollars of fines for each form not completed correctly, including a fine for failure to complete the form within three days of hire. And, of course, as a Houston immigration lawyer and Miami immigration lawyer, I must inform my clients that there are serious fines and penalties for failure to complete the form at all.
What if the employer has lots of turnover, like the local hamburger store or a Subway franchise. When ICE hand-delivers the Notice of Inspection, they often ask to see I-9 forms for every employee (including former employees) for the past two, or three years. Imagine what the fine could look like for a small business with lots of turnover and thousands of dollars in fines for each form not done perfectly (or at all).
When I showed this article to my wife, she asked if the employer has to have I-9 forms for American workers as well. Many small businesses may be shocked at the answer, which is, “yes.” The I-9 must be on file for EVERY employee, including American citizens.
Bruce Coane, Houston immigration lawyer and Miami immigration lawyer is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. For further information, I may be reached at [email protected] or at 713-850-0066 (Texas office) or 305-538-6800 (Florida office).