Employers Face Greater Employment Scrutiny: Hiring Illegal Aliens Could Cost You Big


Employers face greater employment immigration scrutiny due to pressure on government to enforce employment current laws prohibiting the hiring of illegal aliens in US. Large fines and possible jail time await those who ignore this threat

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September 12, 2006

Los Angeles, CA -- Immigration regulation is currently a hot and controversial topic these days, and the government is reacting with additional scrutiny of employment practices. Whether you are a large employer or a small family-owned business, you are required to comply with the federal immigration laws related to hiring and employment.
What was a “slap on the wrist” or almost zero enforcement against employers in 2004-2005 has turned 180 degrees this year. There have already been some well publicized raids on employers in 2006 who allegedly hired illegal aliens. Recently, a criminal indictment (Case #1:06CR079 filed in the US District Court-Southern Ohio District-Western Region) was filed against the Garcia Labor Company in Wilmington, Ohio charging that more than 1,000 temporary workers sent to ABS Air, an air cargo firm, were not authorized to work in the US. The firm's owners could face up to 20 years in prison and fines in the millions of dollars. in the District Attorney's press release, Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) stated that “Companies that utilize cheap, illegal alien labor as a business model should be on notice. ICE is dramatically enhancing its enforcement efforts against employers that knowingly employ illegal aliens. Criminal indictments like the one unsealed today are the future of worksite enforcement.”

Undoubtedly all businesses are at greater risk of being audited and of facing stricter penalties for non-compliance with employment laws, and will be as long as the legislative debating persists. While the deliberations about immigration reform heat up, however, government is under pressure to enforce the existing laws, unpopular as they may be in some employer circles. Until the laws change, employers are bound by the current requirements and restrictions, whether or not they agree with them. The trends are becoming very clear: While the feds are raiding more companies, some city governments are even passing their own tougher laws on the employment of illegal immigrants. Also, recently in California some businesses have filed lawsuits under that state's “anti competition” law, accusing their competitors of hiring illegal workers to achieve an unwarranted advantage through lower labor costs.

From documenting proof of citizenship to work authorizations to alien sponsorship, you need to know how these rules apply to your workplace to avoid these types of complications. The I-9 employment form, the basic immigration work document examined by the government, must be completed by every employer on every employee and identification documents certified by the employer. Employers are not required to be immigration experts but they are required to make a reasonable good-faith effort to examine identification and immigration documents presented by new employees to support their work status.

On the Internet, there is a good primer on the employer's requirements to check employment documents. It can be found at http://www.twmlaw.com/resources/formI9.html and the latest I-9 form can be found at http://www.uscis.Gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/i-9.htm. I-9 self-audit instructions you can use to check your records can be found at http://www.agora-business-center.com/0606i9.html

As a further measure to show good faith that you are trying to verify the documents presented by new employees, you can perform Social Security name and number checks with the Basic Pilot Employment Verification Program run through the Department of Homeland Security. Companies can sign up, free of charge, to use this database of Social Security information to verify who a number belongs to. Instructions for verification online are available at http://www.socialsecurity.Gov/employer/ssnv.htm. This could become a requirement in the near future as the immigration service cracks down on employers. The government is now cross referencing tax filings with mismatched or invalid social security numbers to spot employer who show a pattern of hiring workers who are in the US without proper labor authorization. This program will help you avoid that trap.

With a little careful administrative control over the hiring process in your company, you can avoid the increased risk of not having your paperwork in order and therefore being effectively non-compliant with employment immigration laws. The links in this article will provide the information you need to reduce your risk of facing costly and time-consuming penalties.

Daniel Curtin, SPHR is the Principal of Curtin & Associates, a Los Angeles based human resources consulting firm and a local chamber member. An award winning professional, he has over 28 years of corporate and executive level experience in his field. He has contributed to scholarly books and articles and been interviewed by Los Angeles print and television media as an expert. He holds an MBA and a MA in Organizational Management and is certified in his field. More information on Curtin & Associates is available at http://www.hrsolutions-socal.com.

By Dan Curtin, SPHR Curtin & Associates, Los Angeles, CA



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