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E-Verify 2012-2013 Update


By Hector A. Chichoni

From an US immigration compliance perspective, 2012 was an extreme busy year for E-Verify.  In light of the upcoming immigration reform, 2013 promises to be no less.  The following are a few E-Verify highlights gathered from a variety of government sources:

Made available on line:

1. Self-Assessment Guides for E-Verify users;

2. Quick Audit Report (which allows employers to quickly review their E-Verify activity);

3. The E-Verify Employers Search Tool (which allow users to see which employers are using E-Verify);

4. Tentative Non-confirmation Notices and Referral Letters in 9 additional languages;

5. E-Verify overview in Spanish.

Expanded the following services:

1. Self-check available nationwide in February 2012, giving access to everyone over the age of 16;

2. Florida became the second state to join "Records and Information from DMVs for E-Verify" (RIDE);

Incorporated the following technical enhancements:

 1. Supports mobile Web browsing as well as four major browsers: Internet Explorer (version 6.0 and above), Firefox (version 3.0 and above), Chrome (version 7.0 and above) and Safari (version 4.0 and above).

Experienced a tremendous growth:

1. E-Verify enrollment increased by 35% in 2012, and it continues to grow by more than 1,500 employers each week;

2. On January 12, 2013, there were more than 424,000 employers enrolled in E-Verify (1.2 million worksites) and, as of March 19, 2013, there are more than 432,000 employers enrolled. 

If you wish to obtain additional information in connection with this post, please contact Hector A. Chichoni at: 305.960.2277 or at hchichoni@duanemorris.com.

This post does not constitute legal advice for, or establish an attorney-client relationship with, the reader. 

 
 
 
 

Alert: USCIS Corrects Form I-9's Effective Date of Use


By Hector A. Chichoni

On April 9, 2013, USCIS published a notice of correction in the Federal Register to rectify a mistake made in its prior notice of  March 8, 2013 in connection with the new version of Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9 (Form I-9).

In the March 8, 2013 notice, USCIS stated incorrectly the effective date as of “After May 7, 2013” in which employers can no longer use prior versions of the Form I-9.

USCIS’s correction notice of April 9, 2013, rectifies the error stating that “prior versions of Form I–9 can no longer be used effective May 7, 2013.”

In other words, employers must use the 03/08/2013 edition date of Form I-9. Employers should begin using the 03/08/13 dated form right away, older forms dated 02/02/09 and 08/07/09 will be accepted until May 6, 2013. Effective May 7, 2013, only the 03/08/13 will be accepted. The revision date is on the lower left corner of the form.

Federal law requires that every employer and agricultural recruiter/referrer-for-a-fee hiring, or recruiting/referring for a fee, an individual for employment in the United States complete a Form I-9.

 
 
 
 

Is OCAHO Gone Soft on Fines?


By Hector A. Chichoni

This is a brief report on some of the most recent, and somewhat surprising, decisions issued by the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (“OCAHO”)  in connection with the employer sanction provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), as amended by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”).  Although, these decisions do not completely side with employers; they are surprisingly more benign to employers than past decisions. Some of these decisions appear to auger a somewhat “kinder and gentler” course in the application of employer sanction rules and policies with respect to fines. However, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)’ continues to initiate high numbers of investigations and audits, and pursue the highest possible fines and penalties available under statute and regulations, regardless of whether such high fines are warranted.

Here are a few examples of recent OCAHO decisions:

In US v. MEMF LLC d/b/a/ Black & Blue Steak & Crab – Buffalo (“MEMF”) (03/01/2013), a case in which a small company had no prior history of violation, no presence of unauthorized workers found at the time of the investigations, ICE determined that the company, although acting in good faith, nonetheless failed to ensure that each of seventy-three hired employees properly completed “section 1 of Form I-9, or failed itself to properly complete section 2.” True to form, ICE sought highest penalties in the amount of $605 for each violation, or a total of $44,165.

In this particular case, OCAHO reduced the fine, finding that:

"MEMF’s point is well taken that most of the statutory factors weigh in its favor. First, the record does not support the government’s finding that the restaurant is a large employer. The memorandum accompanying the government’s submission states unequivocally that the number of employees was 234, but the record makes clear that MEMF never had that many employees during a single time period. Our case law has previously noted the high turnover inherent in the restaurant industry, and in assessing the number of employees has focused on the number that were actually working at a particular time rather than on the aggregate number of total employees and former employees. Cf. United States v. Pegasus Rest., 10 OCAHO no. 1143, 6-7 (2012) (also considering the Small Business Administration standards for code 5812, noninstitutional “eating and drinking places”);United States v. Snack Attack Deli, Inc., 10 OCAHO no. 1137, 7 (2010)." [Emphasis added.]

In other words, the number of employees who must be considered for purposes of calculating fines is the number of employee that actually worked at a particular time rather than “the aggregate number of total employees and former employees.”

OCAHO reduced the fine, concluding that:

"Apart from seriousness, all the other factors are favorable to the employer. The company is small, it acted in good faith, and it had no unauthorized workers or previous history of noncompliance. MEMF did not argue an inability to pay the amount requested but invoked a different nonstatutory factor of equity, and said that the proposed penalty would create an undue hardship for the business and was disproportionate in light of all the favorable factors. Considering the record as a whole in light of all the facts and circumstances, the penalties will be adjusted as a matter of discretion to $450 each or a total of $32,850." [Emphasis added].

In U.S. v. El Azteca Dunkirk, Inc. (“El Azteca”)(03/13/2013), which also involved a small restaurant with no history of prior violations, ICE sought high penalties of $11,000 for twenty violations (substantive violations of failure to enter proper List A, B, or C documents in section 2 and bad faith), for all past and present employees. Moreover, ICE alleged that illegal conduct on the part of the owners had taken place, but offered no evidence.

In this particular case OCAHO stated that “the facts recited in the memorandum may support an assertion that the violations are serious, but they do not support a finding of bad faith.” Moreover, OCAHO further explained that “the government has the burden of proof to demonstrate the existence of any aggravating factor by a preponderance of the evidence, see United States v. Carter, 7 OCAHO no. 931, 121, 159 (1997), and that burden has not been met with respect to the assertion of bad faith.”

OCAHO concluded that:

"The record here does not support enhancement of the government’s baseline penalties on the bases requested. Were I approaching the question de novo, a somewhat higher penalty would be assessed, but here there is no compelling reason not to give the company the benefit of the government’s original baseline penalty without the enhancements. In view of the minimal fine assessed no payment schedule will be established … El Azteca Dunkirk is liable for twenty violations of 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(b) and is directed to pay penalties in the amount of $2200." [Emphasis added.]

In US v. Seven Elephants Distributing Corp. (“Elephant”)(03/18/2013), a case in which OCAHO found that an employer’s copying of documents and attaching them to a form I-9, cannot “substitute for properly completing section 2 of an I-9 form.” Elephant’s failure to complete section 2 of the I-9s, a substantive violation, was aggravated by the fact that seven unauthorized workers were found in connection with the inspection. Yet, OCAHO reduced the fines in its decision stating that:

"The penalties the government requested are very near the maximum permissible, and appear disproportionate to the current size and status of the employer. As explained in United States v. Pegasus Restaurant., Inc., 10 OCAHO no. 1143, 7 (2012), proportionality is critical to setting penalties, and penalties so close to the maximum should be reserved for more egregious violations than are shown here, United States v. Fowler Equipment Co., 10 OCAHO no. 1169, 6 (2013). They will accordingly be adjusted to an amount closer to the mid-range of permissible penalties. For the most serious violation, that in Count I, the penalty will be assessed at $600. For the seven violations in Count II that involve the I-9s of unauthorized workers, the penalties will be assessed at $500 each. For the remaining twenty-six violations in Count II the penalties will be assessed at $400 each. The total penalty is $14,500." [Emphasis added].

In U.S. v. Siam Thai Sushi restaurant, d/b/a Four Siamese Company, Inc. (“Siam”)(03/27/2013), a case in which ICE found the employer had committed serious violations (made substantive errors) and lacked good faith for failing to complete a Form I-9 for each employee, OCAHO decided that “neither the fact that an employer’s I-9s are missing nor that they are defective is sufficient to show a lack of good faith.” And that:

"[The] penalty should be sufficiently meaningful to accomplish the purpose of deterring future violations, United States v. Jonel, Inc., 8 OCAHO no. 1008, 175, 201 (1998), without being “unduly punitive” in light of the respondent’s resources, United States v. Minaco Fashions, Inc., 3 OCAHO no. 587, 1900, 1909 (1993). Here, while Siam Thai’s violations are considered serious, most of the statutory factors weigh in its favor. Yet ICE’s proposed penalty of $935 per violation is close to the maximum permissible fine. Based on the totality of the circumstances reflected in the record as a whole and, in particular, on the respondent’s circumstances and resources, the proposed penalty will be modified to an amount closer to the mid-range of possibilities. The penalties will be set at $500 each for the eleven I-9s prepared in March and April of 2009, $450 for the I-9 prepared in September of 2009, and $400 each for the six I-9s prepared in June and July of 2010, resulting in a total of $8350." [Emphasis added].

In other words, although the government was seeking high fines for “serious violations” due to  incomplete and missing I-9s forms, because Siam is a “mom and pop” operation, OCAHO reduced the fines in accordance to Siam’s “circumstances and resources” to an “amount closer to the mid-range of possibilities.”

Although many employers may be relieved at the OCAHO’s recent willingness to be measured in its application of fines and penalties, or gone soft on fines, it still remains true that compliance is always better.  ICE can be expected to persist in its effort to extract the highest possible penalties.

 
 
 
 

Summer Will Be Sweltering for 1,000 Employers Caught in Latest ICE Crackdown


This article was originally published in Human Resources News by HR Hero (M. Lee Publishers).  It is reproduced here with permission.

 

Summer Will Be Sweltering for 1,000 Employers Caught in Latest ICE Crackdown

By Holly Jones

 

Temperatures aren’t the only things heating up this week. On Wednesday, June 15, the Obama administration shifted the ever-intensifying immigration dialogue back to federal turf when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will begin conducting its second round of immigration audits this year.

 

Authorities with ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, declined to name the businesses that will be targeted or their locations, but at least 1,000 companies soon will be subject to inspection of their I-9 forms and other hiring records. The businesses range in size and reportedly include those “critical to infrastructure and key resources."

 

The goal of these investigations is to ensure that companies of all sizes and in all states are hiring only individuals who are authorized to work in the United States. A similar round of audits was conducted in February, bringing the total for the fiscal year to a record 2,338 audits. Additionally, over $7 million in fines have already been assessed against employers found in violation of federal immigration laws.

 

Hector A. Chichoni, a partner with the Florida law firm of Duane Morris LLP and chair of the firm’s [Florida] immigration practice, weighed in with his thoughts on the ICE announcement: “The Obama administration has targeted employers since the beginning. It is disappointing to hear about this new round of audits, but not surprising. We predicted that a new wave of audits would take place in January 2011, when ICE announced the establishment of a new Employment Compliance Inspection Center to centralize the processing and review of I-9 employment eligibility verification forms. This new center gives ICE the ability to pursue a large number of I-9 audits simultaneously. The sad reality is that these audits create more problems than they solve. They are very costly to employers, and in times of economic downturn, they have a tremendous impact in terms of loss of productivity and are expensive to defend them. U.S. employers need creative immigration solutions that will allow them to strengthen our economy, not I-9 audits.

 
 
 
 

ICE Auditing 1000 More Companies' Hiring Records


 

[Read More]
 
 
 
 

I-9 Retention: How and What to Keep


Reprinted with  permission of the Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.org), Alexandria, VA, publisher of HR Magazine.© SHRM

 

I-9 Retention: How and What to Keep

Vol. 56     No. 2

2/1/2011

By Hector Chichoni

 

Employers must retain original I-9 forms for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later. The forms should be stored separately from other personnel files. Further, employers should have a “tickler” system to re-verify all employees who present work authorization that bears an expiration date and to accurately dispose of old forms. Many variations have been suggested to keep the forms separate. One of the most common is the use of three separate notebook binders: one for current employees for whom re-verification will not be necessary, another for employees requiring re-verification and a third for terminated employees.

 

Form I-9 can be electronically generated and retained provided that:

 

The resulting form is eligible.

No change is made to the name, content or sequence of the data elements and instructions.

No additional elements or language is inserted.

The employee receives Form I-9 instructions.

The standards specified in the regulations are met.

Employers may complete or retain I-9 forms in an electronic generation or storage system for as long as the system has reasonable controls to ensure integrity, accuracy and reliability of the data. The system should be designed to prevent and detect the unauthorized or accidental creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of or deterioration of electronically completed or stored forms. In addition, an inspection and quality assurance program that regularly evaluates the electronic generation or storage system, and includes periodic checks of electronically stored I-9 forms, including any electronic signatures, and a retrieval system with an indexing system that permits searches by any data element is necessary. The system must be able to reproduce legible paper copies.

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows electronic signatures if the employer wishes to complete I-9 forms electronically. The system must:

 

Affix the electronic signature at the time of the transaction.

Create and preserve a record verifying the identity of the person providing the signature.

Provide a printed confirmation of the transaction at the time of the transaction to the person providing the signature.

 

One potential drawback of using electronic signatures: If an employer is unable to comply with the standards for capturing signatures electronically, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will determine that it has not properly completed the forms.

 

The author is an attorney with Duane Morris in Miami and chairs the firm’s South Region Immigration Practice.

 
 
 
 

USCIS Issues an Employment Authorization Document with a “Built-In” Advance Parole


On February 11, 2011, The United States Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it had begun issuing a Form I-766 or Employment Authorization Document or EAD (aka the “Work Permit”) with a “built-in” Advance Parole.  The announcement states that the single card would be issued to certain applicants filing Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status in the U.S.  This represents a very creative move for USCIS.  EAD cards contain a great number of anti-fraud devices and by adding a “built-in” Advance Parole USCIS has now made the Advance Parole a secured document.  Prior to February 11, 2011, the Advance Parole was printed on paper, which is highly susceptible to fraud.

 

The new EAD card is basically the same, except that it now includes a standardized legend at the bottom of the card which reads: “Serves as I-512 Advance Parole.” The back of the card still retains the machine-readable zone (“MRZ”) introduced on the back of the EADs in May of 2010. This new EAD card is also more durable.

 

To obtain this EAD card, however, applicants still have to go through the tedious process of filing a Form I-131, the Application for Travel Document, and a Form I-765, separately but concurrently.  Applicants will no longer have to wait for two different documents to be approved and sent to them. USCIS will continue, however, to issue separate EADs and Advance Parole documents in cases in which an applicant does not file for an Advance Parole or in cases the Advance Parole is denied.

 

Applicants must remember that this new EAD/Advance Parole card, does not authorize admission; it only allows a CBP officer to parole an applicant into the U.S.

 

Costs for this EAD card are the same and an additional advantage, if any, is that the new card does not have an impact on the employment verification process.  The new EAD card is still listed and qualifies as a document from column A of Form I-9.

 

With all the advanced systems the DHS is incorporating, the time may be coming in which USCIS could be issuing only one permanent card, from the beginning to the end of the process, which would allow permanent residence applicants to travel, work, and reside in the U.S.

 
 
 
 

I-9 Compliance Crackdowns


Reprinted with  permission of the Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.org), Alexandria, VA, publisher of HR Magazine. © SHRM

I-9 Compliance Crackdowns

Vol. 56 No. 2 

2/1/2011  By Hector Chichoni 

Attention to detail is critical in filling out and checking eligibility-to-work documents.

Since enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 more than two decades ago, employers have failed to fully appreciate the importance of the law in terms of Form I-9 compliance. With the federal government cracking down on noncompliant I-9s, employers need to take immediate steps to get their houses in order.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, specifically U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, know that most U.S. employers are not fully compliant, so employers are at the center of the crackdowns. The agency’s strategic plan through 2014 states it will continue targeting employers by pursuing “effective worksite enforcement.” This includes civil and criminal enforcement.  

By establishing and maintaining effective Form I-9 compliance policies, employers can prevent potential liability and mitigate many potential violations. Employers should implement effective I-9 procedures that result in accurate, consistent and uniform preparation, maintenance and, ultimately, disposal of the forms.  

In addition, employers must, in the context of Form I-9 compliance, assess their legal exposure, educate managers on legal risks, and adopt HR practices that identify and prevent liability.  

Different Versions of I-9  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes Form I-9 available in English and Spanish.  

The English version must be retained, while the Spanish version can be used for translation purposes only. The exception: In Puerto Rico, employers may retain and use either version.  

Form I-9 has undergone several revisions during the last two decades, with the first occurring in 1991. Subsequent 2007 and 2009 revisions primarily updated the number of acceptable forms for establishing identity and work authorization, and eliminated unsecure or out-of-date documents.  

During 2009, Form I-9 was revised twice. Important changes included a mandate that employers accept only unexpired documents, updates to List A and List C, and the addition of “non-citizen national of the United States” to the employee’s attestation box in Section 1.  

It is critical that employers use the proper Form I-9, available at www.uscis.gov/i-9, and complete it correctly.  

All new employees must complete Form I-9 if they were hired on or after Nov. 7, 1986, regardless of citizenship.  

Filling Out I-9s

On or before the employment start date, employers must provide a new hire with Form I-9, its instructions and the lists of acceptable documents to establish identity and work authorization. Ensure that the new employee legibly and properly completes Section 1 of Form I-9 and signs the form or acknowledges the signature no later than the first day of hire.  

An employer cannot request a Social Security number when the employee is completing Section 1 unless the employer is registered for and using E-Verify. The employee must provide a physical address, not a post office box. The new employee has three business days from the employment start date to present the necessary documents to establish his or her identity and employment authorization. USCIS has issued a clarification on how to calculate the three business days for I-9 purposes. According to instructions for E-Verify, the date of hire is counted as day zero, not day one. But the safest approach is to count the date of hire as day one.  

Moreover, employers should require employees who indicate on Form I-9 that they are “aliens authorized to work” to identify specifically their status and classification on the form.

The employee chooses which documents to provide. Although this specific requirement has been in place since 1986, it is often neglected.  

Employers are responsible for completing Sections 2 and 3 of Form I-9. The new employee must provide either one original document from List A or one original document from List B (regarding identity) plus one original document from List C (regarding work authorization). Further, if an employee provides a document from List A that meets the requirements, the employer should neither request additional documentation nor complete any portion of the List B or List C parts of Section 2 of the form.  

One important distinction: Employers registered for E-Verify must, when an employee presents a document from List B, require a document with a photograph.  

Employers are responsible for reviewing acceptable unexpired original documents and for comparing the information on the documents to that in Section 1. When reviewing originals, confirm that they reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the new employee. Examine them carefully for obvious errors.  

Employers can compare documents to pictures found in USCIS’ Handbook for Employers (M-274) or Guide to Selected U.S. Travel and Identity Documents (M-396) for obvious errors relating to font, seal, photograph alignment and document presentation. Employers registered for E-Verify must use the information contained on Form I-9 to conduct a query on the newly hired employee. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the form is correct.  

When an employee’s work authorization expires, the employer must reverify his or her employment eligibility. If Section 3 has been already used, use a new Form I-9 by writing the name of the employee in Section 1 and completing Section 3 of the new form. The new form must be attached to the original form. The employee must present a document that shows either an extension of employment authorization or new work authorization. If an employee is unable to show current work authorization by providing a document from List A or List C, the employer cannot continue to employ the individual.  

Employers can also use Section 3 when rehiring an ex-employee within three years of his or her departure. However, doing so makes it more difficult to keep track of the expiration of documents. An employer rehiring an ex-employee within three years should use a new Form I-9 to ensure that the latest list of acceptable documents is being used.  

One important I-9 rule is the “receipt rule.” An employer may accept a receipt in lieu of a document from List A, B or C if the receipt is for a replacement of a lost, stolen or damaged document. In this case, the receipt is valid only for 90 days from the date of hire, or, for reverification, until the date that the employment authorization expires. Receipts cannot be accepted if employment is to last less than three days. When the employee provides an acceptable receipt, record the document in Section 2 of Form I-9 and write down the word “receipt” and its document number in the “Document #” space. When the employee returns and presents the actual document, cross out the word “receipt” and the number, write the actual document’s number, and initial and date the change.  

The Immigration Reform and Control Act allows, but does not require, employers to make a copy of Form I-9 documents. If the employer copies documents for one new employee, it must do so for all new employees. Copies of documents should be attached to Form I-9 for audit purposes. Federal officers have informally commented that they prefer to see a copy of the documents when going through audits. Having the copies readily available can go a long way to show that an employer has complied with the act’s verification process in good faith.  

I-9 Audits  

Employers that audit their I-9 forms can use those audits to review, revise and correct their written policies. It is therefore important that employers assess their legal exposure and conduct internal audits of the forms. If an audit uncovers incorrectly completed forms, take steps to address the deficiencies, but don’t backdate any corrections or amendments to forms. Instead, conspicuously initial and date changes when remedial steps are taken.

If deficiencies are found in Section 1, the employee must sign and date any corrections. The employer must suspend or terminate any employee discovered to be working without authorization. It is wise to consult with an attorney before suspending or terminating an employee, as wrongful termination could lead to charges of discrimination and other claims.  

Substantive Violations

Federal agents or auditors often inspect I-9s. The purpose is to identify violations that might lead to criminal prosecution as well as substantive or technical violations that might result in issuance of administrative fines or warning notices.

Since the 1996 amendment to the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the federal government distinguishes between technical errors and substantive violations.  

Examples of technical or procedural violations include failure to:  

Ensure that an individual provides her maiden name, when applicable, or his or her address or birth date in Section 1 of the I-9.

Ensure that the individual dates Section 1 at the time employment begins.

Provide the document title, identification numbers and expiration dates of proper List A documents or proper List B and List C documents in Section 2 or 3, but only if legible copies of the documents are retained with the forms and presented at the I-9 inspections.

Provide the title, business name and address in Section 2.

Provide the date of rehire in Section 3.

The federal government must provide employers at least 10 business days to correct technical violations after notification. If an employer fails to correct violations on time, it will be subject to fines.  

Examples of substantive violations include failure to:

Prepare or present Form I-9.

Ensure that the individual provides his or her printed name in Section 1.

Ensure that the individual checks a box in Section 1 attesting to whether he is a citizen or national of the United States, a lawful permanent resident, or an alien authorized to work until a specified date.

Ensure that an alien authorized to work provides his or her alien number in Section 1, if the number is not provided in Section 2 or 3, or on a legible copy of the document that is retained with the I-9 form.

Ensure that the individual signs the attestation in Section 1.

Review and verify a proper List A document or proper List B and List C documents in Section 2 or 3.

Sign the attestation in Section 2.

Date Section 2 within three business days of the date the individual begins employment or, if the individual is employed for three business days or less, at the time employment begins.

Sign Section 3.

Date Section 3 not later than the date that the work authorization of the individual hired expires.

Penalties

Employers may be subject to fines for substantive and uncorrected technical violations. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the power to determine if an employer knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers. If so, the employer may be fined and, in certain situations, may be prosecuted criminally. Debarment is also possible.  

Procedural consistency is critical to protect the company from discrimination claims that may arise as a result of an untrained employee going beyond the procedural and substantive I-9 rules.  

Accuracy is of extreme importance for purposes of Form I-9 compliance. Employers often complete forms but fail to pay attention to detail. Proper completion requires knowledge of complex and often confusing rules and diligence to maintain accuracy and uniformity.  

The author is an attorney with Duane Morris in Miami.”  

 
 
 
 

Rick Scott Issues Executive Orders on E-Verify


On January 4, 2011, Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida issued executive order No. 11-02, which effective immediately, directs Florida state agencies under his direction and any contractors or subcontractors with those agencies to use E-Verify to check the work authorization of all present and future employees. Governor Scott’s order was issued, in part, to fulfill a campaign promise that would “require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal.” However, on January 4, the governor’s campaign promise fell short of making E-Verify mandatory for all employers. It still remains possible that Governor Scott could attempt to make E-Verify mandatory, especially if the Arizona law is held to be constitutional.

E-Verify is the free Internet-based system administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) that uses Social Security Administration (“SSA”) data to verify an individual’s work authorization. However, in order for E-Verify to conduct its check, employers must draw information from Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, more than 240,000 businesses nationwide and over 10,000 in Florida have signed up for E-Verify. But E-Verify appears to present some challenges. According to recent federal reports, the program is unable to detect unauthorized workers more than half the time (54%) because its antifraud devices, which appear to be practically nonexistent, cannot detect identity theft. Moreover, a report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) indicates that inaccuracies and inconsistencies in recording employees’ names will continue to produce erroneous Tentative Nonconfirmations (“TNCs”). According to USCIS, of 22,512 TNCs resulting from name mismatches in fiscal year 2009, approximately 76 percent, or 17,098 TNCs, were for citizens, and approximately 24 percent, or 5,414 TNCs, were for noncitizens. In Rhode Island, for example, E-Verify was so conflict-ridden that incoming Governor Lincoln Chafee terminated it the day after Governor Scott issued the order to adopt it.

There is an increased emphasis on employer compliance under the Obama administration. With employers facing such a multitude of potential penalties and sanctions, employers may want to consider taking proactive steps, such as putting their I-9 compliance “houses” in order and not delaying the auditing of their I-9 forms. Even further, at a recent IMAGE signing ceremony, John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), announced the creation of an employment compliance inspection center in Arlington, Va. The center will house 15 new I-9 auditors who will help field offices around the country to expedite Form I-9 audits. At the signing, Morton said, “Many of our regional offices or our local offices simply don’t have the manpower to conduct that kind of inspection or investigation” to audit US employers and that the new center will “ensure us to have the capacity to do a lot of large-scale audits.” Unless the Republicans win the next presidential election (so far, President Obama is holding at 53% approval rating, according to CNN), the Obama administration shall continue targeting employers for I-9 compliance. The creation of such a center, dedicated exclusively to I-9 audits, is unprecedented and indicative that compliance will not only continue, but also is likely to increase.

 
 
 
 
 

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Michael W. Casey III, Kevin E. Vance, Mark J. Beutler, and Teresa M. Maestrelli practice labor and employment law, with a particular focus on labor and employment litigation, including Title VII, ADEA, ADA, Florida Civil Rights Act, and whistleblower claims, as well as non-compete litigation, in state and federal trial and appellate courts in Florida and throughout the United States. They also represent employers before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the National Mediation Board (NMB), the U.S. Department of Labor, including the Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and various state and local agencies, as well as in arbitrations, collective-bargaining negotiations and union representation elections. Hector A. Chichoni practices in the area of US and global immigration law. He chairs Duane Morris's Florida Immigration Practice. The editors of Chambers USA 2010 also selected Mr. Chichoni as a "Leader in the Immigration Field." He has represented a vast number of corporate and individual clients throughout his career ranging from premier US health care organizations, Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, multinational corporations and universities to doctors, professors, researchers and students. His international experience includes handling matters relating to export controls and global corporate compliance and business transactions. He has represented clients in a wide variety of cases before the US Immigration Court.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.