Immigration Customs Enforcement (hereinafter “ICE”) enforcement continues to hit record highs. The Agency has announced that it has served more than 5,200 I-9 audit notices to business owners across the country since January 2018. This was accomplished in two phases. From January to March, 2,540 notices were served, leading to 61 arrests. Then, in the five-day period from July 16 to July 20, 2,738 notices were served and 32 arrests were made.
Overall, since the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1, 2017), 6,093 worksite investigations were opened and 675 criminal and 984 administrative arrests were made. In the prior fiscal year, 1,716 worksite investigations were opened, 1,360 I-9 audits were accomplished and 139 criminal and 172 administrative arrests were made.
The more than threefold increase in investigations is in line with President Trump’s executive orders and is intended to “remind” employers that they must comply with the law. Derek Benner, Acting Executive Director of Homeland Security Investigations stated: “Employers need to understand that the integrity of their employment records is just as important to the federal government as the integrity of their tax files and banking records. All industries, regardless of size, location and type are expected to comply with the law. Worksite enforcement protects jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminates unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen[s] public safety and national security.”
While investigations are taking place all across the country, California continues to be a particular target for the Administration. The Department of Justice (hereinafter “DOJ”) filed a lawsuit in March alleging that federal law preempted at least part of California’s sanctuary laws. The court found in the DOJ’s favor. It held that the California law discriminated “against California employers who wish to cooperate with immigration officials enforcing the 1986 Immigration Reforms and Control Act (IRCA), which requires employers to verify the identify and work eligibility of individuals they hire.”
Preparing for possible ICE investigations is the best offense in this environment.