By Alexandra LaCombe
The U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) announced higher civil fines against employers who commit immigration-related offenses, including Form I-9 and E-Verify violations, the unlawful employment of foreign nationals, unfair immigration employment practices, and H-1B and H-2B program violations. The new penalties will go into effect on August 1, 2016, and will apply only to violations occurring after November 2, 2015, when the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which mandated that federal agencies adjust all civil penalty amounts for inflation, was signed into law.
The penalty increases are substantial, as fines are being adjusted for inflation from the date of their initial enactment. Most significant is the increase in the range for fines for mistakes or omissions on Form I-9 – known commonly as paperwork violations. These penalties will increase by 96 percent, from a minimum of $110 and maximum of $1,110 to a minimum of $216 and maximum of $2,156. A comprehensive list of penalty increases is included below.
What This Means for Employers
The increased fines demonstrate the government’s increased efforts to more vigorously enforce federal immigration laws and deter employers from hiring unauthorized workers. However, I-9 mistakes can occur even in the complete absence of foreign workers, as every employer is required to complete this form for every individual it hires in the U.S. Given that the penalties for I-9 mistakes are virtually being doubled as of August 1, 2016, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure they have comprehensive I-9 and other immigration compliance policies and procedures in place.
Because most I-9 violations are considered continuing violations until they are corrected, employers may wish to start discussing a review of their I-9 compliance program. An internal review to remediate errors and determine areas for improvement can help to minimize potential imposition of these significantly increased penalties.
If you need assistance with this, or any other immigration issue, please contact the author, Alexandra LaCombe, at (248) 649-5404 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alexandra is a Member of the Legal Affairs Committee of Detroit SHRM and a partner at Fragomen Worldwide (a Resource Partner of Detroit SHRM).
Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles with others, inside and outside their organization, as long as its name and logo, and the author’s information, is included in the re-post of the article. July 2016.