Miami ICE and I-9 Audit Defense Attorneys
Immigration fraud and the employment of illegal workers are one of the most fought issues by the federal government. The group of people at the center of such fights are employers, and an ‘ordinary’ I-9 compliance problem may quickly develop into a big issue with damaging consequences. For companies facing ICE audits, qualified legal representation is critical to help them avoid trouble from federal authorities.
There are several compliance obligations under the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) that all employers in Miami and nationwide should abide by. These obligations govern how employers should assess their prospective and current employees, and non-adherence can lead to trouble with the federal authorities. Companies found to be employing unauthorized workers or those not allowed to work in the United States can face substantial penalties. In some cases, for instance, if found to be committing these acts intentionally, the company owners and executives can be criminally prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
If you’re an employer, you need to be prepared for anything that may happen. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may knock on your door at any time to notify you about a potential investigation. You can as well receive a Notice of Inspection (NOI) informing you about suspected non-compliance. In these situations, you need to understand what will follow, and the responsive measures you can take to avoid undesirable consequences.
If you’re facing an ICE audit or investigation, let Oberheiden P.C. fight and defend you to ensure you achieve a desirable outcome. Whether you’re located locally in Miami, regionally, or nationwide, we have a team of experienced lawyers and former federal agents who can represent you. These former federal agents have worked in agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and they act as consultants to provide guidance where necessary. The combined knowledge of our attorneys and consultants can go a long way into making sure we develop the right strategies to handle your case.
Four Things About ICE and I-9 Audits that All Employers Need to Know
ICE and I-9 audits are two things you shouldn’t ignore or underestimate as an employer in Miami or nationwide. You should strive to understand the problems that lead to these investigations and their penalties. After understanding these issues, handle them proactively by ensuring you’re compliant with I-9 and immigration law obligations. You should also ensure proper documentation of your compliance program as well as ongoing compliance efforts for easy demonstration when ICE investigators show up at your work facilities.
Our attorneys and consultants have handled many I-9 and ICE audits in the past, and they recommend the following things that all employers should keep in mind when facing these investigations:
1. I-9 Rules and Regulations for U.S. Employers
There are various I-9 rules and regulations that all U.S. employers should comply with under the IRCA. Any company that hires workers is required to verify the identities of everyone it employs and whether they’re eligible to work legally. To conduct this process, the IRCA requires employers to prepare, collect, and store 1-9 forms, which are also known as Employment Eligibility Verification Forms.
These forms have separate areas that both the job candidate and employer should complete. Apart from checking the information provided by the potential employee on the I-9 form, an employer should also request for identity documents and review them, as well as ascertain the worker is eligible to work in the United States. He/she should make sure the documents provided are genuine and they correspond to the information filled out on the I-9 form. Employers who don’t follow these obligations risk penalties for employing illegal workers, and if potential employees don’t include the correct information, their employers can be penalized too.
After they have collected the completed I-9 forms, employers should retain them for a specified period: three years from the hiring date or a year after an employee has left the job, whichever is longer. When ICE launches an audit and you don’t have the necessary I-9 forms to show compliance, the agents may be forced to investigate further.
2. What Employers Should Expect in the Course of An ICE or I-9 Audit
If the ICE wants to audit your company, they’ll first send a Notice of Inspection. However, note that not all audits start with notices, some begin as unexpected raids (it’s a real possibility). If you’re lucky to receive an NOI, the ICE gives you three business days to respond with the I-9 forms of your former and current employees. This agency may also require you to attach the documents you requested from the workers to ascertain they were eligible to work lawfully in the country.
If you have all the necessary I-9 forms and submit them within the three business days, the ICE goes through them as well as any other relevant piece of documentation for any violations. If they find insignificant technical mistakes like missing signatures or dates, they give you ten days to correct where necessary. However, if the investigative agents evaluate the form and find significant deficiencies such as inadequate verification, or you fail to make the necessary corrections within the ten given days, the audit will change and transition into a civil enforcement proceeding. If the ICE detects the violations were intentional and you knowingly employed illegal workers, you may be criminally prosecuted for immigration fraud.
3. How to Act and Respond to an I-9 or ICE Audit
Considering the risks associated with these audits, it’s vital you respond to them suitably after receiving a Notice of Inspection. Dedicate your resources, time, and effort into organizing all the required documents and provide them. Another crucial thing is that you should converse with ICE agents in a productive manner and without engaging in any unnecessary confrontations.
This process is prone to mistakes by employers, and that’s why they are encouraged to hire legal representation for proper guidance on what to and what not to do. Here at Oberheiden P.C., we represent Miami employers in all matters concerning ICE and I-9 audits to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. We help them respond to the NOIs the best way they can and determine whether they’re at any risk of civil or criminal prosecution. Note that even if an immediate response to the NOI is vital, you should know which information is safe to provide and which isn’t. Some information you share can put you at risk, and you should know when the valid audit has transitioned into an investigative process that needs a search warrant or any other form of legal authorization.
If an employer conducted the employee evaluation process while following all the necessary laws and regulations, responding to an I-9 or ICE audit with legal representation and guidance should be an easy process. With that in mind, it’s vital not to let the simple term “audit” mislead you to a false sense of security. Federal authorities launch ICE and I-9 audits intending to discover illegal actions, and an undesirable outcome can lead to hefty penalties or prosecution. Therefore, no matter how simple an audit seems, you should handle it with the utmost seriousness.
4. The Possible Outcomes After ICE or I-9 Audits
Various audits have different outcomes, and the ICE issues “notices” and “warnings” depending on the results of the audit process. Here are explanations of these notices and warnings:
Notice of Inspection Results – This notice is also known as a “compliance letter,” and it notifies a business that it has been found to be compliant. It signifies the completion of the audit and your business isn’t at risk of any penalties.
Notice of Discrepancies – Through this notice, the ICE informs the employer that after reviewing the provided documents, it can’t conclusively determine an employee’s work eligibility. Therefore, the employer should provide additional documentation for further review.
Warning Notice – It indicates the employer has been found with substantial violations, but the situation doesn’t warrant monetary penalties or enforcement action. However, he/she is expected to be fully compliant in the future.
Notice of Suspect Documents – It indicates that after reviewing the requested documents, the employee has been found to be unauthorized, and the employer can face civil or criminal penalties. In this notice, the ICE also gives the employer another chance to provide additional documents if they believe the agency’s decision was a mistake.
Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF) – It indicates ICE’s intentions to employ enforcement action after significant violations were found. If you’re served with a Notice of Intent to Fine, this agency provides you with documents indicating the specific violations you committed. You can either accept the NIF or take steps to defend yourself against the penalties by either negotiating a settlement with the ICE or requesting a hearing before the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) within 30 after NIF receipt.
ICE or I-9 audits are serious matters that require well-defined defense strategies, regardless of the company’s size. At Oberheiden P.C., we have an impressive track record of defending businesses in ICE audits and protecting their rights in enforcement proceedings. Whether your company is facing federal civil or criminal prosecution, our experienced attorneys can provide your much-needed legal representation to produce a favorable outcome. Contact Oberheiden P.C. to consult with us for free.
Get in Touch With Us to Speak to ICE and I-9 Audit Attorney or Consultant
If your business is facing an ICE or I-9 audit, contact us to talk to Miami federal immigration defense attorney. Our consultations are free. We also invite any questions or concerns potential and current clients may have. You can call us via 888-680-1745 or use this online form to send us your contact information.