Presidential administrations have vastly different priorities, and, we know the current administration is placing a lot of attention on immigration. We heard it through the election cycle and that theme has steadily continued thru the first year of the Trump presidency. Politics is a like a pendulum. The swings can be dramatic, and as an employer, what happens in Washington and with I-9 compliance, should matter to you.
This past week, 7-Eleven stores across the US had simultaneous federal immigration agents knocking on doors in an enforcement operation that yielded 21 arrests and prompted the employer to comply with a full-scale audit. Audits like these can result in a number of penalties and subsequent fines that can be costly. Not surprising, the federal agency has in-depth fine schedules that will give anyone sticker-shock.
One of the ways to enforce immigration law is through the Federal Form I-9. From the Fed’s website: Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. The why seems fairly clear, but the how (compliance) isn’t. Completing the I-9 is typically done through Human Resources, a Manager, or the Business Owner at the time of hire. Usually it’s done in tandem with tax forms and insurance enrollment, but there are some timing and validation requirements that cannot be overlooked.
The likelihood of having federal agents wearing ICE jackets standing outside your door tomorrow is probably not imminent. But as an employer, there is a risk associated with not having your documents in proper order. Ensuring the person completing the employer section and validating the documents presented by the employee is trained is critical. That person doesn’t need to be an expert with documents, but they should feel confident in what is presented and be schooled in fraud. Lastly, I would regularly perform an I-9 audit. It doesn’t sound appealing, but it’s best practice and it alleviates the pain associated with penalties and fines – regardless of the political pendulum.