Dallas ICE and I-9 Audit Defense Lawyers
Employers in Dallas are on the front lines of the federal government’s fight against immigration fraud and the hiring of undocumented workers. “Ordinary” I-9 compliance issues can lead to problems as well, and companies that are facing ICE audits need experienced legal representation.
Under the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), all employers in Dallas are subject to compliance obligations with regard to the screening of prospective and current employees. Illegally hiring undocumented workers – and even failing to adequately determine whether a worker is able to work legally in the United States – can lead to steep penalties; and, in egregious cases, company owners and executives can face criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
With this in mind, if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have shown up at your company’s facilities, or if you have received a Notice of Inspection (NOI) regarding your company’s I-9 compliance efforts (or perceived lack thereof), you need to be prepared. You need to know what comes next, and you need to know what to do in order to avoid a disastrous result.
At Oberheiden P.C., we defend employers during ICE audits and investigations. Headquartered in Dallas, we represent companies, locally, throughout Texas, and nationwide. Our Dallas-based team includes career federal criminal defense lawyers and former federal prosecutors, and we have a nationwide network of attorneys and consultants who previously served with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and other agencies.
What Do Employers in Dallas Need to Know about ICE and I-9 Audits?
For employers in Dallas, it is critically important to have a clear understanding of the types of issues that both trigger and lead to penalties in ICE and I-9 audits. Employers must address these issues proactively through effective I-9 and immigration law compliance, and they must have policies and procedures in place to demonstrate their compliance when ICE agents show up at their doors.
What do you need to know if your company is facing an ICE or I-9 audit? Here is an overview of some of the key issues from our Dallas employer defense lawyers and federal immigration compliance consultants:
1. Understanding the I-9 Requirements for U.S. Employers
The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires all employers in the United States to verify the identity and employment eligibility of job candidates. Under IRCA and its enabling regulations, this verification process is executed through the preparation, collection, and storage of I-9 forms. Also known as the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, I-9 forms are the exclusive means of complying with IRCA’s verification requirements.
I-9 forms have separate sections to be completed by employers and job candidates; and, critically, in addition to reviewing employees’ I-9 form information, employers must also, “examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9.” Employers that fail to conduct adequate verification can face federal penalties for hiring undocumented workers—and this is true even when workers misrepresent their employment eligibility their I-9 forms.
In addition to obtaining, reviewing, and completing I-9 forms for all prospective employees, employers must retain I-9 forms for a specified period of time: three years from the date of hire or one year from the date of termination, whichever is longer. If ICE audits your company and you do not have all requisite I-9 forms on hand, this is going to raise an immediate red flag that is almost certain to lead to an intensified inquiry.
2. Understanding What to Expect During an ICE or I-9 Audit
Unless ICE agents come to your company’s offices or raid your facility (which is a very real possibility), the audit process will begin with the issuance of a Notice of Inspection (NOI). Once your company receives an NOI, it has three business days to produce the I-9 forms for its current and former employees. The NOI may also require production of the supporting documentation your company secured when evaluating prospective employees’ employment eligibility.
Assuming your company is able to produce the required documentation in time, ICE will review your I-9s and supporting documentation for any deficiencies. If ICE agents identify any technical deficiencies (such as missing dates or signatures), your company will be given 10 days to make all necessary corrections. If ICE agents identify any substantive violations (such as failure to conduct adequate verification), or if any technical deficiencies are not corrected within 10 days, then the inquiry will transition from an audit to a civil enforcement proceeding. If ICE agents have reason to believe that your company may be knowingly and intentionally hiring undocumented workers, then the inquiry could transition into a criminal immigration fraud investigation.
3. Understanding What to Do During an ICE or I-9 Audit
With these risks in mind, when faced with an ICE or I-9 audit, Dallas employers must devote the time, attention, and resources required to respond to the audit effectively. This means diligently collecting all I-9 forms (and supporting documentation, if required) and knowing how to interface with ICE agents in a productive and non-confrontational manner.
In order to avoid costly mistakes, it is strongly advised that all companies seek legal representation during the I-9 audit process. When we represent Dallas employers, we work closely with our clients to ensure that they comply with their NOIs (to the extent that they can) and determine whether and to what extent they may be at risk for civil or criminal prosecution. While employers must comply with valid ICE inquiries, they must also avoid unnecessarily sharing information that could put them at risk, and they must know when inquiries cross the line from valid audit procedures to investigative measures that require a search warrant or other formal legal authorization.
If your company’s I-9 and employment eligibility verification practices are fully compliant, then responding to an ICE audit (with the advice and representation of legal counsel) should be a relatively straightforward process. That said, it is important not to let the “audit” terminology lull you into a false sense of security. An ICE audit is a federal inquiry focused on uncovering illegal activity, and an unfavorable audit determination will lead to the imposition of civil penalties or criminal prosecution by the DOJ.
4. Understanding the Potential Outcomes of an ICE or I-9 Audit
An ICE audit examining your company’s I-9 compliance efforts can have a variety of different outcomes. The agency issues various types of “Notices” and “Warnings,” each tailored to specific types of findings during the audit process. These include:
- Notice of Inspection Results – If ICE determines that your business is compliant, it will issue a Notice of Inspection Results. This notice will confirm that the audit has been concluded and that your business is not currently at risk for further consequences.
- Notice of Discrepancies – A Notice of Discrepancies indicates that ICE cannot determine whether one or more of your company’s employees are authorized to work in the United States. This type of notice will request additional documentation which your company must supply to ICE.
- Warning Notice – If ICE identifies substantive violations but determines that no enforcement action is warranted, it will issue a Warning Notice. However, while no enforcement action is being taken as a result of the audit, your company must ensure that it is in full compliance with IRCA going forward in order to avoid subsequent ICE activity.
- Notice of Suspect Documents – A Notice of Suspect Documents indicates that ICE has determined that your company may be employing unauthorized workers. The notice will inform you that your company (and its owners and executives) may be at risk for civil or criminal prosecution if the company does not come into compliance with IRCA.
- Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF) – If ICE identifies substantive violations and determines that enforcement action is warranted, it will issue a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF). The NIF will be accompanied by charging documents that detail the specific provisions of IRCA that your company is alleged to have violated, and your company will need to defend against the charges in order to avoid penalization.
For employers of all sizes in Dallas, facing an ICE or I-9 audit is a serious matter that requires a strategic and effective defense. At Oberheiden P.C., we have a proven record of success defending employers in ICE audits, and we have protected companies, owners, and executives in federal civil and criminal immigration enforcement proceedings as well. If your company is being targeted by ICE, we can make sure the consequences are no greater than absolutely necessary, and we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free and confidential consultation.
Request a Free and Confidential Consultation at Oberheiden P.C.
Do you need to speak with a Dallas federal immigration defense lawyer about an ICE or I-9 audit? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To speak with one of our senior defense lawyers in confidence, call us at 888-680-1745 or send us your contact information online now.