The weather sure is colder across the entire country at the moment, but “it has become abundantly clear that ICE is not ‘chilling out’” in its mission. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could be said, if anything, to be becoming hotter under the collar in its pursuit of making sure that hackneyed and confusing immigration policy we have on the books now is enforced one way or another. Utah immigration lawyers and the employers they counsel for compliance with the complex immigration laws might find this article by specialist Nicole Kelsey interesting in its consideration of the dilemma that employers face with potential I-9 audits and what their plan of action for the next two years could entail.
One thing it could entail, Kelsey points out rather urgently, is prison. Yes, prison for employers of unauthorized immigrants, and since that’s no fun, it’s probably best to hear what she has to say. Utah immigration lawyers assisting employers in navigating the immigration laws dealing with the hiring and retention of immigrant labor may have previously counseled their clients on considering factors like “the cost of an audit, the risk that would be eliminated by the audit, whether the employer could take time to correct the violations discovered, and whether the business could survive the loss of any employees determined to lack employment authorization.” But now there’s another question in the mix—that of the executive order issued by President Obama, which could mean that a whole bunch of unauthorized employees could become authorized to work within the next 12-24 months.
What does that mean for employers, especially those who are at a higher risk of being inspected by ICE? Doing a voluntary audit means that employers who discover individuals at their employ who aren’t authorized and could lose that labor. But hoping that those unauthorized individuals get their permits in line quickly according to Obama’s executive order, and waiting for ICE to come around and force an audit on a company puts employers in a precarious position. Maybe “it can clean up its I-9s without the loss of as many valuable employees,” before ICE comes around, but if it is inspected by ICE in the interim, “the employer may face hefty fines and—in the most egregious situations—a prison sentence.”
Utah immigration lawyers should keep in mind when providing counsel to their clients that some employers are at a higher risk of inspection from ICE than others. Those in “critical infrastructure,” for example, are on ICE’s lookout. Those who’ve been in trouble with ICE before, whether issued a Warning Notice or those who’ve been “referred to ICE after an investigation by another agency” are at a higher risk of inspection and Utah immigration lawyers may counsel such employers that it “may not be wise to gamble by waiting to conduct an audit.”
Assessing its vulnerability to an audit is something legal counsel can help an employer do, too, and an issue that can be impacted by geography as well as company function and purpose. To act, or not to act just yet, is a decision every employer must reach, but there’s no reason they should have to do it alone.