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The Top Things You Must Know to Successfully Pass an ICE Audit
by Brenda J. Smith, J.D.
As an agriculture employer, you have many certain things to think about. The last thing you want to be worried about is whether your employees are legal, and whether you will be subject to a government audit of your paperwork.
Over ther past 18 months, there has been an increased focus by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) on enforcing immigration laws against employers. This focus represents a shift in immigration policy, and it has huge implications to you as an a agriculture employer. Since July of 2009, over 3,500 employers have received Notices of Inspection (NOI) and subsequently have been subject to a government audit of the I-9 and immigration documentation. Last week the agency announced another 500 Notices of Inspections and audits of employers all over the United States, including companies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2010/09/20/daily8.html
The I-9 form is the most critical document for employer compliance. Employers who mistakenly view the I-9 form as “just a piece of paper” may be in for a big surprise. Namely, that one piece of paper can cost an employer thousands if not millions of dollars. One error on the form is $1,100,; so as an example something as simple as forgetting to sign could cost your company. If you have a file full of these kinds of simple mistakes, the results could be expensive for your small farm , and possibly result in the failure of your business. Between July of 2009 and July of 2010, employers were fined over $38.5 million dollars for administrative errors on I-9 forms. What would your fines total?
The most important question to ask yourself, is “If ICE sent me a NOI today, would I be ready for an audit?” Upon receipt of an NOI from ICE, you must have all files ready within 72 hours. Below are some things to consider as you ponder this question.:
Immigrant labor serves as an important resources to farms. The many agriculture clients I have had who have done the due diligence and have completed internal I-9 audits, have been able meet their labor needs successfully. Taking the same action will ensure a great opportunity for farmers looking to meet their labor needs.
Brenda J. Smith, J.D. is the Founder and CEO of The Brenda J. Smith Company; a national legal consulting firm specializng in helping clients create and implement successful employment and immigration compliance programs. The firm represents agriculture and other employers throughout the United States. The company offices are based in Salem, MA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 978-594-8373(o); http://www.brendajsmithcompany.com