Although President Trump is set to leave office in January 2021, President-elect Joe Biden is not expected to undo all of Trump’s changes to the U.S. immigration system overnight. Instead, he plans to move toward a slow reform of immigration policies in order to avoid triggering a rush of “2 million people on our border,” including children and families. What this means for the construction industry is that we will not see an immediate decrease in the enforcement of current immigration policies in the workplace.
In fact, now more than ever is the time to batten down the hatches and prepare your roofing business for an administrative audit conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In this brief article, we’ll review some of the most common reasons for a worksite investigation and the proactive steps you may want to consider taking. Should you have any questions about immigration law, your rights during an ICE raid of your roofing business, or Form I-9, consult a roofing lawyer in Tennessee.
Common Reasons Behind a Government Inspection of Your Jobsite
In March of 2020, ICE aimed to conduct as many as 15,000 I-9 audits, contingent on funding and a variety of other factors. This number stands in stark contrast to the 6,000 audits that occurred in 2018, which, alone, lead to hundreds of civil and criminal convictions. Going into 2021, we can expect to see at least normal levels of I-9 audits in addition to a possible resurgence of pre-dawn enforcement actions — also known as ICE “raids. To help you get a better understanding of these visits, we’ve outlined two main reasons why government agents may conduct an investigation of your worksite.
Inspection of Form I-9 & Verification of Employee Eligibility
By far, one of the most common reasons for a government inspection of your jobsite is inspection of Form I-9 and verification of employee eligibility. This is by no means a new process. Federal law has mandated that employers verify the identity and work eligibility of their employees since 1986 when the Immigration Reform and Control Act was enacted. This means you are responsible for properly completing and maintaining the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (“Form I-9”) in its original form for inspection by government officials. The inspection process is initiated by a Notice of Inspection that compels the production of these forms within three business days and may be conducted by either the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, or the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the Department of Justice (the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.)
Related: I-9 Compliance
ICE Worksite Raid
In comparison to an I-9 audit, a worksite raid is when ICE agents visit your workplace without prior notice to question and detain employees believed to be present in the United States unlawfully. These raids may either target specific workers as part of an ongoing investigation or question all employees at your jobsite. In non-public areas, such as a residential or commercial property your roofing business may be working on, the actions of ICE agents are governed by Fourth Amendment standards, and they must have secured a judicial search warrant from a judge in order to conduct a search of the private areas of the premises or received consent from the employer. If your roofing business has recently been targeted by an ICE worksite raid, it’s critical to consult a roofing attorney in Tennessee.
Related: Form I-9 and E-Verify
Proactive Steps You May Want to Consider
The most common result of an I-9 adult is fines for technical recordkeeping violations ranging from $110 to $1,100 per paperwork error violation. However, these fines can quickly increase to $375 to $16,000 for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized workers. For roofing contractors looking to avoid these financial penalties, it’s important to consider these proactive steps:
- Enroll in E-Verify, an online system that allows companies to determine if new hires are eligible to work in the United States
- Establish and maintain internal immigration procedures that protect you from hiring individuals without employment authorization
- Conduct routine Form I-9 self audits in order to ensure that all of your company records are complete and accurate
- Create an I-9 compliance plan led by an assigned compliance officer that includes methods for managing documentation
- Designate and train an assigned personnel member to be held responsible for compliance processes and procedures, including recordkeeping requirements
- Create a tracking system that tracks dates of employment authorization expiration
- Ensure your employees are adequately trained and prepared for a government visit, particularly HR
If you want to avoid non-compliance and ensure your worksite is audit-ready, don’t wait any longer to get in touch with one of our roofing attorneys.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.