Fines, arrests, and more fines, oh my!

By Jennifer Pawlak

“In fiscal year 2018, HSI opened 6,848 worksite investigations compared to 1,691 in FY17; initiated 5,981 I-9 audits compared to 1,360; and made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 139 and 172, respectively; all of these categories surged by 300 to 750 percent over the previous fiscal year.”

Just what does an ICE worksite investigation really look like? Check out this flowchart from them describing their I-9 administrative inspection process. What comes before this is in-depth research by the agency, based on tips or other credible evidence (often shared by other agencies) that an organization should be further investigated for potential I-9 violations.

What comes after this (well, sort of after, sort of somewhere in there^) is what I wanted to share with you as a brief roundup of the latest and greatest enforcement actions.

So please read along for some noteworthy cases!

April 3, 2019

ICE executes federal criminal search warrant in North Texas. ICE described this as the largest raid in a decade, arresting 280 employees unlawfully working in the United States. Fines and prosecution forthcoming.

February 13, 2019

ICE Homeland Security Investigations execute federal search warrant during worksite enforcement operation at local market. 26 unauthorized workers arrested in San Diego at a Korean grocery store. Final outcome pending.

December 21, 2018

OCAHO Case No. 18A00006. OCAHO* assesses a $44,315.60 penalty, initially based on discovery that the employer, Executive Cleaning Services of Long Island Ltd., failed to sign the Employer Attestation (Section 2) in 100% of its Forms I-9 (25 employees). It was further found that on nearly 70% of the company’s forms, the employee did not attest to his/her authorization to work in the United States. The penalty also covered one employee who was found to be unauthorized to work in the U.S. and presented false documents during the I-9 process to which the employer was alerted yet continued to employ.

November 7, 2018

Oklahoma-based agri-business agrees to $1 million civil settlement. Pork production plant knowingly hired and employed unauthorized workers from 2007-2012.

September 12, 2018

A Bean Station, TN, slaughterhouse owner pleaded guilty to tax fraud, wire fraud, and employment of unauthorized workers. Over 30 years, James Brantley “knowingly hired, or caused others employed by him to hire, unauthorized aliens to work as employees.” During the April 2018 raid, 104 unauthorized workers were arrested. Brantley has agreed to pay $1,423,588 on or before his sentencing (now scheduled for May 8, 2019).

August 29, 2018

Waste Management Inc. agrees to $5.5M forfeiture. North America’s leading provider of waste disposal and collection had an established pattern of knowingly hiring and employing unauthorized workers either through staffing agencies or directly with the company.

August 8, 2018

Multi-state collusion leads to 133 arrests in NE, MN, and NV. Unauthorized workers likely coerced in effort to staff farms, restaurants, ranches, and other companies throughout Nebraska, Minnesota, and Nevada.

November 21, 2017

OCACO Case No. 16A00056. OCAHO issued a penalty to Integrity Concrete, Inc. and American Concrete, Inc. based on several counts: 1) failure to prepare/present Form I-9; 2) failure to ensure Section 1 was completed properly; 3) failure on the part of the employer to complete Section 2 and/or 3 of the form; and 4) substantive paperwork violations. Integrity was assessed a penalty of $11,325 and American was fined $5,500.

September 28, 2017

Everyone’s favorite cautionary tale, Asplundh Tree Experts, Co.’s $95 million fine. This represents the highest amount ever levied in an immigration case and was largely due to knowingly hiring unauthorized workers and conspiring at the highest levels to do so. $80M of the $95M was a criminal judgment and the remaining $15M was civil penalties.

I chose these particular cases because it’s not just hiring unauthorized workers that’ll get you in trouble. As you can see from the two OCAHO cases, simply not completing the forms properly can get you into a mess of trouble.

How do you feel about the state of your program? How large is your Immigration Penalties budget line? I imagine it doesn’t even exist. The good news is, these penalties are avoidable! Drop me a line and let’s chat.

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