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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Announces 1,000 New Audits of Employers Nationwide

Immigration Law Alert Eric D. Ledbetter, Grant Sovern, Lisa D. Duran, Maria F. Kallmeyer

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today the issuance of 1,000 Notices of Inspection to employers across the country. The Notices alert business owners that ICE will audit their Form I-9 hiring records to assess compliance with federal employment eligibility verification laws.

"ICE is focused on finding and penalizing employers who believe they can unfairly get ahead by cultivating illegal workplaces," said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. "We are increasing criminal and civil enforcement of immigration-related employment laws, and imposing smart, tough employer sanctions to even the playing field for employers who play by the rules."

The 1,000 businesses served with audit notices this week were selected for inspection as a result of investigative leads and intelligence, and because of the business' connection to public safety and national security-for example, privately owned critical infrastructure and key resources. ICE has declined to release the names and locations of the businesses at this time due to the sensitive nature of these audits.

Audits involve a comprehensive review of Form I-9s, which employers are required to complete and retain for each individual hired in the United States. I-9 forms require employers to review and record each individual's identity and work eligibility document(s), and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to that specific individual.

Audits may result in civil penalties and lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly violate the law.

In July 2009, ICE issued 654 Notices of Inspection to businesses nationwide in the largest operation of its kind before today. Of that number, 61 employers have received fines totaling $2.3 million; 326 employers were found to be in compliance with employment laws or were served with a warning notice in expectation of future compliance; and the remaining 267 audited employers are still awaiting a final assessment by ICE.

All employers are strongly encouraged to evaluate their own I-9 policies and procedures to ensure compliance with federal employment verification laws. If you have questions about your immigration, I-9 or E-Verify compliance programs or need help conducting a self-audit of your documentation, please contact a member of our Quarles & Brady immigration team: Eric Ledbetter (Chicago) at 312-715-5018 /, Grant Sovern (Madison) at 608-283-2668 /, Lisa Duran (Phoenix) at 602-229-5225 /, Maria Kallmeyer (Chicago) at 312-715-5009 / or your Quarles & Brady attorney.