I-9 ICE Audits at an All-Time High — Is Your Organization Prepared?
The last 4 years have not been kind to the immigration community in the U.S. And not just for immigrants themselves. A record number of companies nationwide have felt the chill of ICE knocking at their doors.
A notice of inspection (NOI) from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can be a cold slap in the face — and pocketbook — for any company not properly prepared.
I-9 audits increased by 375% in 2018, and overall, by 5X over the past four years. The rules and regulations for I-9 compliance will continue to evolve, especially as the new Administration in the White House makes a multitude of welcome changes to the immigration system.
Some other numbers that should put your organization on high alert:
- Nearly 6,000 employers were I-9 audited in 2018, and some expect that number to shake out closer to 10,000 when the figures come in on 2020.
- $14 Million in fines were issued in 2019 for Form I-9 violations.
- The average penalty per a single non-compliant I-9 is $1,862.
- 76% of paper Form I-9s have at least one error (and a similar percentage go missing or are incomplete).
How will your organization be affected in the event of an I-9 audit? Without the proper resources and tools in place, large fines and penalties, administrative chaos, disrupted business operations, and even arrests could result. One long-time popular California company was forced to close its doors in 2020 due to the findings from an ICE audit.
“It’s a heartbreaking loss,” the company stated on its Facebook page. “The discovery of a large number of unauthorized workers has so disrupted operations we have had no choice but to close.”
The largest penalties ever handed out by ICE amounted to an eye-popping $95 million against a company who knowingly accepted falsified documents from illegal immigrants.
The difficulties with I-9 compliance
But an organization doesn’t have to intentionally deceive the government to be hit with fines and penalties in an I-9 audit. With over 1,200 rules and regulations, a 100+ page manual, and 15 pages of instructions, completing the Form I-9 properly can be a tedious and complex task.
And like it has for so many facets of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the I-9 completion process even more difficult. With a remote workforce in full effect, onboarding is a more demanding procedure than in the past; your own HR staff are likely working from home, so they too are more removed from the process than before.
With all of these complexities, the mere mention of an ICE Notice of Investigation is enough to make even the most well-intentioned organization panic. That’s where your partner in immigration compliance, Mitratech, comes in.
How to prepare for your I-9 audit with best practices — a case study
With a full suite of I-9 compliance tools, Mitratech works with your team to ensure operational efficiency, security, and compliance with all of your I-9 tracking needs. Cloud-based and automated tools take much of the stress out of an I-9 audit.
Abercrombie & Fitch learned some important lessons after their audit, and afterwards decided to switch to a Mitratech I-9 compliance solution. The best practices they learned from Mitratech?
- Develop and implement a regular audit process:
- Regularly review your electronic I-9 system — both the e-processes and final completed forms
- Make it failsafe – have built-in error protection:
- Protections include: I-9 cannot be filed electronically if fields are filled incorrectly or left blank; expired documents cannot be entered
- Keep it simple:
- Instructions should be clear & concise for local managers responsible for creating the I-9
- Be sure it’s an integrated solution:
- Ensure your I-9 software can integrate with any Applicant Tracking System already in place, making sure the form is completed at the time of hiring
- Enable portable authentication:
- The I-9 software should automatically permit access for managers at a specific location, even if they are temporary
The easing of immigration restrictions under the Biden Administration will mean more work-based visas, and an easier path to citizenship (and employment) for many already in the country.
It also means many more changes to rules and regulations. The need for a comprehensive and automated compliance solution has never been greater. Learn more about what Mitratech’s I-9 Compliance team can do for you.