As reported by the Washington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a pre-dawn raid on January 10, targeting 98 7-Eleven Stores in Washington, D.C. and 17 states coast-to-coast. The agency stated that it made 21 arrests and delivered audit notifications to the various franchises.
ICE top official Tom Homan told the Post that the actions “send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable… ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
Notably, today’s events follow our reporting on Homan’s comments made last Fall when he promised to potentially quintuple worksite enforcement actions in 2018. Those affected individuals in today’s raids could face severe monetary penalties for Form I-9 violations following audit, as well as potential civil or criminal penalties for their alleged use of unauthorized workers.
Given the Trump Administration’s heavy hand on immigration enforcement, we have previously warned employers of the spectre of increased worksite enforcement, especially in the context of Form I-9 compliance. Although Homan’s remarks focused on the employment of unauthorized workers, Form I-9 violations may attach to employers with a 100% authorized workforce. The quintessential example of such liability was the 2010 million-dollar settlement between ICE and clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, where a defective Form I-9 system led to significant liability notwithstanding a finding that no employees were unauthorized.
U.S. businesses of all sizes – including those who believe their workforce is 100% authorized – would be well-advised to ensure their Form I-9 records and processes are in full compliance. Contact us today for more information relating to changing administrative priorities and ensuring your immigration-related obligations are met.