In remarks delivered November 13, 2009, to the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano emphasized that DHS will continue to use worksite enforcement to address "the demand side" of illegal immigration. Secretary Napolitano said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audited more employers suspected of hiring illegal labor in a single day in July 2009 than had been audited in all of 2008. These comments echo the Secretary's May testimony to Congress in which she announced, "ICE will focus its resources within 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."  

The Obama administration's strategy for worksite enforcement has been well publicized in 2009 and involves a multifaceted approach. ICE has used I-9 audits, consensual searches, whistleblowers, informants, cooperating illegal immigrants, undercover agents, and partnerships with other federal and state agencies to bring new focus on employers. The results have been striking. For example, in FY2008 worksite enforcement criminal arrests rose from 25 in 2002 to more than 1,100, and administrative arrests rose from 485 to more than 5,100; I-9 audits increased at least 30 percent in 2009 over 2008 levels. In addition, as of September 2009, all companies with federal contracts must use the E-verify system to check the eligibility of new hires.

In light of these enforcement trends, it is critical for employers to document and properly classify relationships with employees, independent contractors, and temporary workers; conduct periodic internal I-9 audits; train personnel; understand and consider the benefits of E-verify; and investigate suspected violations in a timely manner. Employers must also take care to avoid discrimination in the I-9 process.

Our attorneys offer many services to assist employers with compliance and investigations involving U.S. immigration laws, including:

  • Strategies for responding to law enforcement, government inspections, inquiries about identity, I-9s, subpoenas, and raids
  • Guidance regarding compliance with state and federal immigration laws and regulations
  • Contract considerations regarding immigration compliance
  • Strategies to respond to and defend against claims of national origin discrimination, unlawful hiring, Immigration Reform and Control Act violations, civil penalties, and criminal charges


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