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Employers Beware: Violation Fines To Increase Exponentially

Mar 8, 2008
On February 22, 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey announced higher civil fines against employers who violate federal immigration laws. The new rule will become effective as of March 27, 2008.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, employers may be fined for knowingly employing unauthorized aliens, for failing to comply with the requirements relating to employment eligibility verification forms, for wrongful discrimination on the basis of nationality or citizenship, and for immigration-related document fraud.

Under the new rule, these fines will increase by as much as $5,000 per alien. For example, the minimum penalty for knowingly employing unauthorized aliens will increase from $275 to $375. The maximum penalty for a first violation will increase from $2,200 to $3,200. The penalty for multiple violations will increase from $11,000 to $16,000.

Now that the civil fines will be increased dramatically, it is more crucial than ever for employers to protect themselves from Immigration Audits. The following list contains seven secrets to surviving an Immigration Audit:

#1 Do An Internal I-9 Audit Now. Don't wait for Immigration to raid your workplace or to send you a letter demanding to inspect your I-9 Forms within 72 hours to first review them. Do it now. Compare your payroll with your I-9 forms and make sure that you have an I-9 Form for all employees. Make sure that they all have been filled out correctly and completely and that you have started to use the new revised I-9 Form (Rev. (06/05/07).

#2 Centralize the I-9 Process. Train 1 or 2 employees in the technical process of filling out I-9 forms. Then have them always be in charge of completing the I-9's , instead of random supervisors, who may or may not be familiar with the process.

#3 Do Not Put the I-9's in the Employee's Personnel file. Keep the I-9 forms in a separate file. You don't want to have to turn over your employee's personnel files to Immigration, since they contain privileged information. (You can put a copy of the I-9 in the employee's personnel file, if you want, but keep the originals separate.)

#4 Always Examine the Original Documents - Not Copies. It is critical that you examine the original document, "green card", drivers license or social security card, not a copy. Make sure that you are using the revised list of approved documents, effective December 26, 2007.

#5 Copy the Front and Back of All Documents that were Examined, and Attach to the I-9. Although employers are not legally required to make a photocopy of the documents that they examined, doing so, demonstrates the employer's good faith, and if questioned, the employer can point to what documents they relied upon, even if they ultimately prove to be fraudulent.

#6 Establish a Written Policy that Fraud in the Employment Application Process, Will be Grounds for Termination. By doing so, the employer will clearly have the right to terminate an employee if it later discovers that he submitted fraudulent documents to obtain employment.

#7 If you Receive a Social Security Mismatch Letter, Contact Your Attorney First, Before Responding. The Social Security Administration is sending thousands of Social Security Mismatch Letters to Employers, informing them that there is a "mismatch" in the names and social security numbers of some of the employer's employees. Although a Federal Court Judge has issued a preliminary injunction preventing ICE from sending letters together with the SSA, there may be serious legal consequences for the employer. Therefore, immediately contact experienced legal counsel before responding.
About the Author
Eli Kantor is an attorney in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA representing employers in all aspects of labor, employment and immigration law. For more information contact Eli at (310) 274-8216 or visit his websites: Sexual Harassment Prevention and Beverly Hills Immigration Law.
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