In the first nine months of 2010, we have witnessed a spate of stories about immigration enforcement actions taken by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as illegal immigrants have come under increasing scrutiny and public pressures for immigration enforcement have mounted.
Undocumented workers in various industries in several states (including Georgia, Maryland, Arizona, and Texas) have been targeted, and ICE officials have also been checking employer hiring records, I-9 forms and payroll records for compliance with applicable federal laws. In some cases, employers have been asked to pay substantial fines for non-compliance.
Pursuant to an internal initiative and audit, ICE has also indicated it intends to start pursuing tougher sanctions against employers who have been found to have illegal workers on their payrolls.
Julie L. Myers, an Assistant Secretary of ICE at Homeland Security in Baltimore, has been quoted as saying that recent enforcement actions against employers are “part of ICE’s aggressive pursuit of employers who violate the law.” ICE special agent William Winter has reportedly expressed similar sentiments on the record, saying that “ICE is committed to investigating employers who engage in illegal employment schemes that utilize illegal labor to make an unlawful profit and give them an unfair advantage over businesses that operate lawfully.” And Felicia Skinner, a field office director for ICE in Atlanta has been quoted as saying that “this administration has decided it is going to put a focus on those employers who are exploiting cheap labor.”
Because Illinois is one of the top five states in which “unauthorized immigrants” are living, according to a recent Homeland Security report (along with California, Florida, New York and Texas) Illinois is likely to become a target for ICE enforcement actions sooner rather than later. Thus, employers would be well advised to have their paperwork in order documenting the legality of their workers.
If you have any questions about preparing for government audits or inspections, or if you have questions about lawful employment of immigrants generally, check out the relevant portion of our Website or call our office at (847) 564-0712.