Illegal immigration enforcement shifts toward employers

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced that illegal immigration enforcement will be shifting away from undocumented workers and toward employers.

The announcement comes in the wake of a Supreme Court decision on May 4, ruling that a worker can not be charged with aggravated identity theft, subject to an extra two years in prison, if the worker was unaware they were using an actual person’s information.

Violating the statute requires that an offender “knowingly … uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person.” The government argued that “knowingly” didn’t pertain to the identity theft portion of the law.

On behalf of his colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “As a matter of ordinary English grammar, it seems natural to read the statute’s word ‘knowingly’ as applying to all the subsequent elements of the crime.” (Workforce Management)

Only days before the ruling, on April 30, the Department of Homeland Security changed their policy on illegal immigration and will now target the employers of undocumented workers, rather than the illegal workers themselves.

“Effective immediately, ICE will focus its resources in the worksite enforcement program on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers in order to target the root cause of illegal immigration.” (DHS)

ICE has been instructed to target “employers who cultivate illegal workplaces” for civil fines, along with criminal prosecution in federal court. ICE will continue to arrest any illegal workers found during worksite investigations and process them for deportation.

DHS issued a new Fact Sheet on its Worksite Enforcement Strategy to help employers fully understand the change in policy and comply with immigration laws. Download a copy of the Fact Sheet (.pdf).

As of April 3, 2009, employers are required to use the revised Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification. All new employees, including U.S. citizens, must verify their work eligibility with an I-9 form when they are hired.

Employers do not need to submit forms to the government for verification, but must hold on to the forms for three years after the employee’s date of hire or for one year after the date the employee leaves the company (whichever date is later).

Order the updated Form I-9, along with detailed tip sheets, to ensure your business stays in compliance with federal recordkeeping requirements. Employers can find more tools and information on filling out I-9 forms correctly in the ComplyRight I-9 Recordkeeping Kit.

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