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Baby, it’s cold out there: ICE violations cost company $95 million

Posted January 16, 2018

A recently completed investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of a large company revealed a scheme to unlawfully employ aliens, in which the highest levels of management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the U.S.

The company pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a monetary forfeiture judgment in the amount of $80 million – the largest judgment ever handed down in a worksite enforcement investigation. They are also required to abide by an administrative compliance agreement, as set forth by the local jurisdiction for the company’s headquarters.

Pursuant to a separate civil settlement agreement, the company will pay an additional $15 million to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with immigration law, bringing the total cost of this illegal scheme to $95 million.

Tasked with enforcing the business community’s compliance with federal employment eligibility requirements, ICE HSI developed a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that targets employers who violate employment laws. This strategy incorporates a three-prong approach to conduct worksite enforcement:

  1. Compliance, through I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment;
  2. Enforcement, through the arrest of employers knowingly employing undocumented workers, and the arrest of unauthorized workers for violation of laws associated with working without authorization; and
  3. Outreach, through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.

From an operational standpoint, each worksite enforcement investigation is unique. Many factors are considered and, depending on the level of cooperation and culpability, the final outcome for the company and its employees will vary from case to case.

An effective worksite enforcement strategy must address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers themselves. In worksite cases, ICE will look for evidence of the mistreatment of workers, along with evidence of trafficking, smuggling, harboring, visa fraud, identification document fraud, money laundering, and other such criminal conduct.

To help avoid an ICE penalty, employers may seek Department of Homeland Security (DHS) certification through the IMAGE program. Participants pledge to maintain a secure and stable workforce, including outreach and education designed to prevent unlawful hiring practices. After first completing a self-assessment questionnaire, employers must enroll in the DHS E-Verify program, establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy and submit to a company-wide form I-9 inspection.

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