The U.S. federal government is always fighting against illegal immigration and the hiring of unauthorized workers. The main targets of such fights in Dallas are employers. What may seem like a small I-9 problem may develop into a huge issue, and if your business is facing an ICE audit or investigation, you need the best legal representation you can get.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) has well-established rules and regulations for employers regarding the assessment of potential and existing workers. Companies in Dallas should comply with these obligations to make sure they don’t land into trouble. For instance, hiring unauthorized workers and inadequate screening to determine whether a potential employee can lawfully work in the U.S. can attract costly penalties. In the worst-case scenario, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may prosecute the company executives and owners.
With this information in mind, you need to be well-prepared if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents knock on your company’s offices. Similarly, if a Notice of Inspection (NOI) has been sent to you concerning your I-9 compliance efforts or suspected non-compliance, preparation is vital. You need to know what you can expect and the right steps to take to avoid damaging consequences.
Here at Oberheiden P.C., we provide exceptional legal representation to companies facing ICE investigations and audits. We have our main offices in Dallas, but we can represent you no matter your location across the country. Our team comprises of experienced federal defense attorneys and former prosecutors, and we also have consultants who worked formerly as agents in the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Labor (DOL), and other agencies. With a team as qualified and skilled as this, you can be guaranteed of unparalleled legal representation.
ICE and I-9 Audits – What You Need to Know as an Employer
As an employer, it’s critical that you clearly understand the issues that attract ICE and I-9 audits and lead to penalties. Once you’ve understood these issues, you should address them proactively by making sure you’re compliant with the set I-9 and immigration laws and regulations. And, you should document your procedures and policies as proof of compliance when ICE agents and investigators come to your workplace.
If you’re facing an I-9 audit or ICE investigation, there are several things you should know as an employer. Here are some of those things as recommended by our employer defense attorneys and immigration compliance consultants.
1. Evaluating I-9 Requirements for Employers in the U.S.
Under the IRCA, employers in the U.S. are required to confirm the identities of potential workers and whether they can work legally in the country. Employers complete this verification process by preparing, collecting, and storing I-9 forms. The I-9 form is also known as the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, and it’s the exclusive tool of showing you’re compliant with IRCA’s verification rules and regulations.
The I-9 form has several sections that both the potential worker and employer should fill out. In addition to checking the information filled out by the prospective employee on the I-9 form, the employer should also verify his/her job eligibility as well as identity documents. The documents should be legitimate and they should correspond to information on the I-9 form. If an employer fails to conduct a thorough examination process before hiring, they risk federal penalties for employing undocumented individuals – and that is also true if employees give false information on their I-9 forms.
The employers have collected, reviewed, and completed I-9 forms for all potential workers; in addition to that, they should keep these forms for a particular period: three years from the employment date or a year from the date of an employee stopped working in that company, whichever is longer. When ICE comes to audit your company and finds you don’t have all the necessary I-9 forms, it will raise an alarm and may be forced to launch an investigation.
2. What Should You Expect When an ICE or I-9 Audit is Being Conducted?
The audit process typically starts with you receiving a Notice of Inspection (NOI). Please note that in some cases, ICE agents may aggressively raid your offices without warning (it’s very possible). After getting a Notice of Inspection, you’ll have three business days to provide your existing and former employees’ I-9 forms. You may also be needed to provide the piece of documentation you obtained to make sure your potential employees were qualified to work in the country.
Assuming you can provide the needed information within the three days, ICE agents will evaluate the I-9 forms and supporting documents for any mistakes or violations. If the ICE agents find technical mistakes such as missing signatures and dates, they’ll give you ten days to make the required changes. If the agents detect significant mistakes during the review process such as inadequate employee evaluation, or you fail to correct technical mistakes within ten days, the audit will change to a civil enforcement proceeding. And if the ICE agents acquire information indicating that you may be deliberately and purposely employing unauthorized individuals, the inquiry can change to a criminal investigation for immigration fraud.
3. What Should You Do as an ICE or I-9 Audit is Being Conducted?
With all the risks associated with hiring illegal workers, you should strive to ensure your response to the audit is as effective and efficient as possible. This means dedicating your time and resources as well as concentrating on the matter fully until it’s resolved. You should diligently collect the I-9 forms and other required documents and know how to productively communicate with the ICE agents without any confrontations.
To avoid disastrous mistakes during the ICE or I-9 audit, companies are also advised to get legal guidance and representation. Here at Oberheiden P.C., we can represent and work with you hand in hand to make sure you act per the NOIs to the extent you can. We can also help you determine whether you’re at risk of criminal or civil prosecution, and the level of riskiness. Even though you should comply with the ICE audit, note that you should avoid providing information that may put your company at risk. You should be keen to know when the audit has changed to an investigative procedure that necessitates a search warrant or any other official authorization.
If your company has been compliant with the laws and regulations as stipulated by the IRCA, ICE audit response with the right legal representation and direction shouldn’t be a challenging process. However, don’t let the term “audit” lie to you and make you think nothing big is going to happen. ICE audits are inquiries meant to discover any illegal actions; if they find you guilty with substantial mistakes or violations, you may face huge penalties or get prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
4. What are the Possible Results of an ICE or I-9 Audit?
These audits can have a range of results. The agency issues different kinds of ‘warnings’ and ‘notices’ depending on the circumstances involved in each specific audit process. They include:
Notice of Inspection Results – If after auditing the ICE agents discover that you have been compliant, then you’ll receive a Notice of Inspection Results. What does this notice say? It says the audit has been completed, and you don’t have mistakes that warrant further investigations.
Notice of Discrepancies – If the ICE can’t clearly determine the eligibility of one or more of your workers to work in the U.S., it issues a Notice of Discrepancies. This notice requests for additional documents for further investigation.
Warning Notice – The ICE issues a Warning Notice if it discovers significant violations but concludes no enforcement action is required. However, even though a company doesn’t face enforcement action, it should ensure it’s fully compliant going forward to prevent future non-compliance risks.
Notice of Suspect Documents – The ICE issues this notice after determining your business may be involved in unlawful employment. It informs the business and its leaders that they risk facing criminal or civil prosecution if they don’t comply with IRCA’s regulations.
Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF) – If ICE discovers your company has violated IRCA’s regulations and requires enforcement action, it issues this notice. The NIF comes with charging documents indicating the specific regulations your business is claimed to have violated, and it will need to defend itself to avoid penalties.
No matter the size of the company in Dallas, an ICE or I-9 is a matter that needs to be taken seriously. It needs a well-planned and efficient defense to increase the chances of a favorable outcome. At Oberheiden P.C., our positive track record speaks for itself – we have successfully defended companies in ICE audits and protected their executives and owners in federal criminal and civil prosecutions. If your business is facing an ICE audit or investigation, our advice and representation can guide you in taking the right steps and increase your chances of getting better results. Contact us immediately you realize your company is about to be audited so that we can guide you from the start to the end.
Oberheiden P.C. – Contact Us for a Free ICE and I-9 Audit Consultation
If you need to talk to an experienced attorney about a potential ICE or I-9 audit, contact us here at Oberheiden P.C. for a free and confidential consultation. We also encourage any relevant questions or concerns from our current and prospective clients. You can reach us through 214-692-2171, or tell us how we can reach you by filling out this online form.