Recent actions by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are another “wake-up” call for employers to insure they are in compliance with federal immigration laws. These developments include nationwide immigration raids against a manufacturer and the arrest of several of its executives and alleged illegal workers.
At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled a comprehensive immigration enforcement strategy that has worksite enforcement as one of its key objectives.
Immigration Raids: This week agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested seven current and former managers of IFCO Systems North America, Inc. (“IFCO”), the largest pallet services company in the U.S. headquartered in Houston, Texas. They charged them with conspiring to transport, harbor, and encourage and induce illegal aliens to reside in the U.S. for commercial adventure and private financial gain in violation of federal immigration law. Two other IFCO employees were arrested on criminal charges relating to fraudulent documents.
In addition to the criminal arrests, ICE agents also conducted “consent” searches or executed criminal search warrants at more than 40 IFCO plants and related locations in 26 states that resulted in the apprehension of approximately 1,187 illegal alien IFCO employees.
The investigation into IFCO began last year when ICE agents received information that IFCO workers in New York were witnessed ripping up their W-2 tax forms and that an IFCO assistant general manager had explained that these workers were illegal aliens, had fake Social Security cards and did not intend to file tax returns.
Other allegations included IFCO officials knowingly hiring an illegal alien who was an informant for ICE and reimbursing this person for obtaining fraudulent identity documents for other illegal alien employees; using the person to recruit other illegal workers; and advising the person and other illegal alien employees on how to avoid law enforcement detection.
Immigrant Enforcement Strategy: Along with the IFCO announcement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also unveiled a comprehensive immigrant enforcement strategy. One of the key aspects of this strategy is a worksite enforcement and compliance program to deter illegal employment.
Under this approach, the department intends to punish employers that knowingly and recklessly employ illegal aliens by using criminal sanctions against companies instead of relying on the old tactic of administrative fines as sanctions. The department is also charging more employers with money laundering violations, which can result in prison sentences of up to 20 years.
Other key aspects of the department’s worksite enforcement strategy are to eliminate Social Security abuses that support illegal immigration, and to work with Congress to build employer compliance systems. ICE and DHS will seek to develop an administrative regulatory program to provide clearer guidance to employers on their immigration compliance efforts.
Summary: There is no question the federal government is stepping up their enforcement efforts against companies that violate federal immigration laws. For affirmative action practitioners, these developments are another important reminder to have legally compliant I-9 forms that are readily available for inspection by OFCCP during a compliance evaluation.
DCI recommends you alert your companies of this emerging development and remind them of the importance of I-9 form legal compliance. Be prepared for OFCCP to closely review your company’s I-9 forms during your next compliance evaluation.