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Advice to Employers regarding Immigration Law

As federal immigration officials ratchet up efforts to crack down on the hiring of undocumented workers, business owners can take positive steps to protect themselves from raids, litigation and fines. According to Nation’s Restaurant News…

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, has been targeting the hospitality industry in part because of the large Hispanic workforce… An estimated 22 percent of the foodservice industry’s workforce is Hispanic overall, including both documented and undocumented workers.”

It’s mainly in the documents…

As one employment attorney quipped, “If a picture is taped to the card, it’s not a good card.” Nevertheless, employers are not expected to be experts in identifying fraudulent documents, but they certainly should pay attention and know what valid identification documents look like and the types of documents that are acceptable to establish a person’s right to work.

Strategies for complying with immigration laws:

Want to avoid being one of the 624 employers, who in 2011 were arrested for hiring illegal workers? The number is up from 433 the year before, which explains the crackdown alluded to previously. Fines and penalties were in excess of $76 million in addition to the arrests. Here are some sensible approaches to stay out of trouble with the feds:

  • Enroll in and use E-Verify. It’s free and a reliable online tool offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Use E-Verify to check on employee eligibility to work in the U.S. It is one of the best ways to make sure your workforce is legal.
  • Pay attention to the proper use of the I-9 form. Make sure your forms are honestly completed and promptly filed. Any employer found to be habitually out of compliance can expect a wide and uncomfortable scrutiny from ICE agents. It would be a good idea to include an independent I-9 audit periodically to make sure you are complying with I-9 completion and filing.
  • Never give housing and transportation to anyone you know is undocumented. Harboring illegal workers can result in serious penalties – worse than just hiring them to begin with.
  • Establish on-the-job habits and a culture of complying with immigration laws. Put your policies in writing and address what to do about complaints of identity theft or how to handle undocumented employees. Note: Never ask Hispanic workers to produce more documents than the law requires. You could subject your company to a discrimination complaint.
  • If you hire independent contractors, don’t ignore their responsibility to comply with the law. Do whatever is necessary to ensure that contractor employees working on your job site are legally authorized to do so.
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