Meet our Guest Blogger
Bruce Buchanan Bio
Bruce Buchanan has been in practice in the areas of immigration law and employment/labor law. He has been in private practice since 2003. Previously, he was an attorney for the NLRB for 20 years. From 1991 to 2003, he was an Adjunct Professor at William H. Bowen UALR School of Law. In Immigration law, his specialties are immigration compliance – ICE audits, E-Verify and I-9 audits, as well as immigrant & non-immigrant visas on the employer side, and family-based visas and Immigration Court defense on the individual side. My specialties in employment/labor law are wage and hour, representation before the NLRB, FMLA, and union avoidance.
Immigration compliance is becoming more and more important for employers. In the current fiscal year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is on track to fine employers about $16 million. Additionally, ICE has received $5 million for criminal forfeitures and fines to date in this fiscal year. In the last few weeks, ICE fined Broetje Orchards $2.25 million, the largest civil worksite penalty on record against any business in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. Recently, the head of ICE’s Worksite Enforcement, Donald Buechner, stated ICE was emphasizing criminal prosecutions that arise out of civil investigation. Boechner explained too many companies see I-9 fines as “part of doing business.”
ICE is not the only immigration agency issuing record fines. Recently, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued its largest fine – $320,000 to Luis Esparza Services, Inc., to settle claims that the company discriminated against individuals because of citizenship status.
As you know, Georgia requires the use of E-Verify. Because of this, many companies are under the false impression that the use of E-Verify prevents ICE or the OSC from levying any penalties against it. This is untrue as employers can still face fines of over $100,000 for paperwork violations. A recent example occurred in Georgia where M&D Masonry was fined $228,000 for its paperwork violations.
So what should employers do to safeguard against these things from happening? One thing is to have an I-9 self-audit performed by an immigration compliance attorney or under their supervision. Through the self-audit, the errors on the I-9 forms can be located and corrected. If your company corrects the errors before ICE conducts their own I-9 audit, your company will save tens of thousands of dollars, maybe over $100,000. Additionally, training of your HR staff is essential to understand all aspects of immigration compliance.