The Department of Homeland Security recently stated that it intends to increase worksite enforcement by four or five times. It put these words into action last week with a massive raid of nearly 100 7-Eleven stores nationwide. This sweep resulted in the arrest of 21 workers who were suspected of being in the U.S. and working without authorization. This was a follow-up to a 2013 probe that led to charges against nine 7-Eleven franchisees and managers accused of knowingly hiring and harboring undocumented immigrants.
Under George W. Bush, pre-dawn raids of companies were common, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targeting immigrant-heavy industries such as meatpacking plants, poultry processors, fruit suppliers and other businesses, and arresting and removing undocumented workers. This worksite enforcement tactic changed in the Obama Administration to focus on paperwork audits that heavily fined and sometimes criminally penalized employers, raking in more than $100 million in financial sanctions, but didn’t immediately arrest undocumented employees on-site. Derek Benner, a top official at ICE, said that last week’s 7-Eleven raid was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers. He said there would be more employment audits and investigations, including more large-scale compliance investigations like the one that targeted 7-Eleven.
This strategy incorporates ICE’s three-pronged approach to conduct worksite enforcement: compliance, through I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment; enforcement, through the arrest of employers, knowingly employing undocumented workers, and the arrest of unauthorized workers, and the arrest of unauthorized workers for violation of laws associated with working without authorization; and outreach, through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability. This is a concern for many employers.
In this new climate, it is more important than ever for employers to make sure that their I-9s are fully compliant. Grzeca Law Group is available to provide I-9 audits, training sessions and policies to ensure consistent procedures. Please contact us for more information on how to protect your company and your workers.