The US government has significantly ramped up its enforcement efforts in the recent years. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) initiated 6,848 worksite investigations which reflects a more than 300% increase from FY 2017. The number of I-9 employment eligibility verification compliance audits has also increased: nearly 6,000 audits were conducted in FY 2018, while the government commenced just 1,360 audits during the prior year. HSI has also increased the number of criminal and administrative arrests related to worksite immigration violations. Most of the worksite enforcement efforts start with random or targeted I-9 audits. Most of the time these audits end with administrative penalties and fines for violations ranging from paperwork deficiencies to absence of Forms I-9 to employment of unauthorized workers. For employers that knowingly engage in a pattern and practice of employing illegal immigrants the penalties move into the criminal area.
To safeguard your company against the worst audit consequences, establish consistent employment eligibility verification practices at your business including training for personnel involved in recruitment and hiring, in-house I-9 self-audits with the help of counsel and experienced HR consultants, and implementation of best practices with regard to I-9 completion and maintenance.