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During his inaugural address, President Trump provided a glimpse into the priorities his administration will pursue, including immigration enforcement. He stated, in part, “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.” This clearly points not only a desire to prevent the outsourcing of American jobs, but also a desire to ensure only authorized workers in the United States are engaged in the workforce.
President Trump and his administration will likely take employers to task who either knowingly or unknowingly have unauthorized employees on their payrolls. Businesses big and small should take notice that an administration elected on a platform of strong immigration enforcement will surely hold violators of these laws accountable. Employers risk a serious public relations crisis at best and/or equally as devastating, a significant enforcement action that disrupts business operations.
The new Congress is likely to support additional resources this year for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to support enhanced enforcement. A combination of paper audits and onsite enforcement actions will prove a force multiplier in demonstrating the administration’s commitment to worksite enforcement. With the previous administration having expanded legal protections for new hires, it’s critically important that employers seeking to take additional steps to ensure their compliance with immigration laws do so in a way that doesn’t incur unintended consequences.
Fortunately for many, there is time, albeit not much. Agents aren’t likely to show up on your doorsteps tomorrow. ICE has spent much of the last administration conducting worksite enforcement in a manner similar to the IRS – paperwork audits. Even these paperwork audits have slowed significantly over the past two years and the agency has not publicized fines or results. Shifting to a policy where enforcement involves onsite inspections, more criminal cases against employers, and potentially arrests of unauthorized workers and managers will require a shift in resources and significant planning. That said, patience for businesses that haven’t heeded the shift in views of the new administration will likely be short. Businesses will likely experience stiff fines, significant publicity, and even arrests of corporate leaders and managers who may be viewed as engaged in the hiring of unauthorized workers. Demonstrating that you are taking steps to ensure that your workforce is authorized is more forgivable than waiting to see if immigration agents have identified a problem.
So what should businesses be doing?
I highly recommend any employer looking to evaluate their immigration compliance take a fresh look at their current program and engage appropriate experts. In today’s environment, employers are being asked to thread a needle, and engaging professional expertise is an important step to ensure employers successfully navigate the compliance environment.
Guidepost Solutions is a leader in immigration compliance. Our consulting team includes multiple former immigration officials who support law firms and conduct extensive I-9 and business immigration reviews for our clients. Guidepost Solutions is the owner of the proprietary software solutions, SecureID. SecureID is a cost-effective, comprehensive identity verification software system that is integrated with the Form I-9 and E-Verify. Click here to learn more.
Julie Myers Wood
Chief Executive Officer