On 12/9/11 I assisted a good friend David Nachman present a program at
Fairleigh Dickenson University. It was held in the beautiful Mansion on
the campus. The title was "Current trends in Business Immigration
Law: Transformation, E-Verify and Image. The panel consisted of the Newark
& Mount Laurel Chief of Staff, Russell Owen; Newark USCIS Community
Relations Officer, Kelly Ayala; Management & Program Analysist and
Outreach Coordinator for Transformation, Ms. Abigail Sanford; E-Verify
Chief of Outreach, Ms. Yvette LaGonterie and ICE Officer in the Worksite
Enforcement Section Mr. Drew Tropey.
The audience was mostly business leaders and a few attorneys. The program
started with an explanation of the function of the USCIS District office
and its current processing trends. Ms Kelly Ayala discussed the function
of outreach in the community and the current program to educate the public
about Notary fraud in light of the recent seminar about the unauthorized
immigration law that I was a panelist on last week.
This meeting was a primer for business people about the importance of maintaining
I-9's for all employees. I-9's are forms that are required to
be completed for all employees that verify their work eligibility. Part
of the I-9 process is document examination. The fines for ignoring the
I-9's are large and can devastate a business. I-9's are required
of all employers regardless of the size of the business. There were about
4000 I-9 audits conducted last year nationwide and about 300 in NJ. The
NJ Worksite Enforcement team is down to two auditors but they expect to
grow shortly increasing the risk of an audit. Recently the government
has shifted their focus from illegal employees to the employers who hire
them. Are you willing to gamble? If not we urge you to complete your I-9's
and safeguard them in the event of audit.
USCIS is encouraging all employers to run their new hires through E-Verify.
E-Verify is an online system that checks the employment status of your
employees. It's for new hires only and cannot be used to check your
current workforce due to discrimination issues. E-Verify isn't mandatory
in the US yet but there are ongoing efforts to make it so. E-Verify links
to Social Security and in some states DMV but it has lots of issues with
mismatches and error and many groups along with Immigration lawyers are
against this program. If E-Verify says the individual is not in the system
it could lead to a layoff. Stay tuned to the current immigration debate
to see if this computer system becomes mandatory. However, I-9 paper forms
USCIS is also promoting another program called IMAGE. Image is similar
to E-Verify as it seeks to restore integrity in the workforce. Imge takes
E-Verify to another level. The company is required to sign an agreement
with USCIS that they will use E-Verify in the future, develop training
and arrange for annual I-9 audits. If a company signs up for the Image
program they will be visited by a USCIS-ICE officer who will assist them
review their I-9's in a preliminary audit. If they find more than
50% of the I-9's to be lacking they will fine the organization but
the fines will be smaller that they would be in the event of a full blown
audit. Image is like a self check, once your enrolled however, you're
guaranteed not to be audited for two years and your business will have
the tools it needs to prevent unauthorized employment in the future.
My feeling after hearing the program was that many employers at completing
their I-9's but making mistakes. Some are intentional others are not.
If you're not reviewing your I-9's I suggest you do so asap. Don't
ignore this requirement just because the odds of an audit are extremely
low. An unscheduled ICE audit could be a very cold day.
If you would like more information or would like to speak with a New Jersey
immigration lawyer then please
contact our firm by calling 800-909-8129 today.