U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced Tuesday the results of a two-phase nationwide operation in which I-9 audit notices were served to more than 5,200 businesses around the country since January. A notice of inspection (NOI) informs business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether they are complying with existing law.
From July 16 to 20, the second phase of the operation, HSI served 2,738 NOIs and made 32 arrests. During the first phase of the operation, Jan. 29 to March 30, HSI served 2,540 NOIs and made 61 arrests.
“This is not a victimless crime,” said Derek N. Benner, Acting Executive Associate Director for HSI. “Unauthorized workers often use stolen identities of legal U.S. workers, which can significantly impact the identity theft victim’s credit, medical records and other aspects of their everyday life.”
While the agency routinely conducts worksite investigations to uphold federal law, HSI is currently carrying out its commitment to increase the number of I-9 audits in an effort to create a culture of compliance among employers, according to Benner.
HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law, and the use of I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law. HSI’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices.
HSI’s worksite enforcement investigations often involve additional criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, document fraud, worker exploitation and/or substandard wage and working conditions.
Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction of the portion of California AB 450 preventing private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration officials conducting worksite enforcement operations. The U.S. Department of Justice, in March 2018, filed a preemption lawsuit to stop California from interfering with federal immigration authorities, including the imposition of fines against employers ranging from $2000 to $10,000 for failure to comply with AB 450. The court found the law discriminates against California employers who wish to cooperate with immigration officials enforcing the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of individuals they hire.
ICE is the federal agency responsible for upholding the laws established by IRCA. These laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security.