ICE Enforcement Actions against Employers Increase in 2018

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is charged with ensuring that employers comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act’s employer sanctions provisions.

According to a recent ICE announcement, in FY 2018  ICE enforcement actions directed at employers increased by over 400% compared to FY 2017, with 6,848 worksite investigations opened, and 5,981 I-9 audits initiated, the highest number in a decade.   While criminal prosecutions and convictions of employers held steady in FY 2018, ICE projects that these will increase in future years due to lengthy investigation and prosecution time frames.

Since 1986, it has been unlawful for U.S. employers to hire individuals who are not authorized to work in the U.S.   Among other requirements, employers must complete  the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 for all employees within their first three days of hire, to show that the employer has reviewed any new employee’s documentation of identity and employment eligibility.

ICE can conduct I-9 audits and other enforcement actions to ensure that employers are in compliance with the law.

As the Cato Institute points out, even with ICE’s recent enforcement increase, the number of impacted businesses is only a fraction of 1% of all U.S. employers.   Since ICE lacks the capacity to investigate all employers, Cato posits that ICE’s aim is to generated greater compliance through fear.

It remains to be seen if this trend will continue in 2019.