More than ever before, U.S. employers must be aware of workplace enforcement laws, many of which are being enforced far more stringently now than in the past, often with criminal sanctions or large fines on violators, who are more often now the employers, not the employees.
Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Workplace Raids
ICE is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE usually starts investigations based on leads, which could be someone calling them regarding suspected illegal activity or an arrest of an employee found to be undocumented. On April 30, 2009, new guidelines for ICE worksite enforcement actions (i.e. raids) were issued. Under the Bush Administration, most criminal arrests pursuant to immigration raids were made on employees and not employers. Now, employers who knowingly hire illegal workers will be the focus of prosecutions. Agents are instructed to criminally arrest employers as well as use civil fines and debarment from federal contracts as deterrent measures. Agents will also continue to arrest undocumented employees for civil immigration violations.
I-9 Issues and Social Security "No-Match" Letters
ICE may send an investigated company a "Notice of Inspection" and ask to look at I-9 forms (which verify identity of employees and authorization to work in the U.S.). Companies should conduct regular I-9 audits and have plans in place to deal with ICE investigations, audits, and raids. Also, companies involved in mergers and acquisitions should conduct a due diligence review of I-9's from a predecessor company. A new I-9 form became mandatory on April 3, 2009 for new hires and re-verifications.
Companies may also receive letters from the Social Security Administration showing possible problems with an employee and his/her Social Security number ("No Match" letters). These may require investigation, notice to the employee, and follow up actions. Insufficient action after receipt of these letters or taking improper or illegal steps against an employee based on one of these letters can lead to substantial problems for an employer.
E-Verify is an Internet-based joint system of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. All federal contractors must use E-verify, and many states (not Texas) require it to be used by all employers. It has been plagued with accuracy problems, with error rates as high as 8%.
Katine & Nechman: Helping Companies Across the Country Comply with U.S. Immigration Laws
Workplace enforcement laws have become increasingly critical for U.S. employers. Katine & Nechman L.L.P. in Houston, Texas is ready to assist you in navigating these complex laws. We can represent you if your company becomes the focus of an immigration audit or raid, but more importantly, we can help you take proactive steps to avoid being in violation of immigration or employment laws, such as conducting an I-9 review audit for your company, developing plans and policies to protect your company, assisting you with Social Security "No-Match" letters, and keeping you abreast of changes that could impact your business. Call us today to schedule a consultation so that we can determine how we can best assist you.
KATINE & NECHMAN L.L.P.
1111 North Loop West
Houston, TX 77008-1700
Toll Free: 866-752-3672
From the offices of Katine & Nechman in Houston, Texas, we help clients throughout the Greater Houston area, including Pasadena, Galveston, Sugar Land, Conroe, Richmond, Rosenberg, Bellaire, Humble, Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, Wharton County, Montgomery County, the Inner Loop, The Galleria, all areas of the Texas Gulf Coast, and the entire states of Texas and Oklahoma. Our immigration practice covers clients throughout the United States and around the world.