Fines Are Increased For Employers Who Hire Undocumented Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on August 25, 2016

Employers who unlawfully give jobs to undocumented immigrants will face increased fines under a new rule published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DoJ published a rule on June 30 that entails stiffer penalties for companies and individuals who unlawfully employ immigrants, as well as unfair employment practices linked to immigration. New fines for “so-called paperwork violations” for I-9 forms become effective on August 1.

Fines are increasing for unlawfully employing immigrants

Under the interim final rule as published in the Federal Register, the lowest penalty the DOJ can impose for the unlawful employment of immigrants would increase from $375 to $539. The maximum fine has increased from $3,200 to $4,313.

The DOJ rule will mean the maximum fine for “paperwork violations” related to I-9 forms will increase from a maximum of $1,100 to $2,156. The minimum penalty for each of these violations increases from $110 to $216.
If an employer receives three or more orders for violating the rules about unlawfully employing immigrants he or she faces a new maximum penalty of $21,563.

There are also increased fines for unfair immigration-related practices. Under the new rules, a first order related to discrimination against immigrants will increase from a maximum of $3,200 per person discriminated against to $3,563. The minimum penalty will go up from $375 to $445.

Fox News reported that the increased penalties have been welcomed by many small businesses which frequently lose business to bigger corporations that they claim hire illegal immigrants to work in fields such as laborers or as farmers.

Companies that hire undocumented immigrants can face stiff penalties. Earlier this year, the owners of a tortilla factory in Houston were arrested and hit with federal charges of hiring illegal immigrants to work in their facility.

Federal agents arrested the husband and wife owners of La Espiga de Oro tortilla factory, alleging that they “knowingly and repeatedly” hired immigrants who did not have the documentation to legally work in the United States.

The new hikes in fines do not include “harboring” of illegal immigrants or the employment of 10 or more undocumented immigrants at one time, offenses that can lead to sentences of up to 10 years in jail.

Before the mid-1980s, employers who hired undocumented workers faced few sanctions. Since 1986, employers have been under a duty to verify the immigrant status of all workers.

Who is Entitled to Work in the United States?

If you are considering new hires, it’s important to make sure they fit into one of these four classes of legal workers:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Noncitizen nationals
  • Green card holders, and
  • Aliens who are authorized to work.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services outlines exactly what documents you need to establish authorization to work in the United States on Form I-9.

Our Austin, Texas lawyers specialize in immigration cases, and can help you if you are experiencing difficulties about hiring or if you have been accused of hiring undocumented immigrants. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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Immigration Lawyers Express Concern over Changes to E-Verify program

By Peek & Toland on August 15, 2016

Many companies use the E-Verify program to make sure prospective employees are eligible to work in the United States.

However, recent changes proposed to the system including the expansion of E-Verify to allow the reverification of existing workers have concerned lawyers.

E-Verify is an online system administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that compares a wide range of information on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, as well as information on Social Security Administration and U.S. Department of Homeland Security records to confirm employment eligibility.

It’s used by more than 600,000 employers. USCIS boasts about its speed and accuracy. E-Verify is a free and fast online service that can quickly pull millions of government records and produce results in as little as three to five seconds.

In June 2016, USCIS announced a consultation on E-Verify including some of the key changes:

  • An employee may be able to receive emails about his or her case from the system.
  • The employer’s name will be added to email notices from the system to employees.
  • A process for reverification of employee work authorization for employees who have expiring temporary work authorization will be implemented.

The reverification provision has proved to be controversial with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which cited “legal and practical concerns.”

In a letter on June 20, AILA told USCIS it was disappointed that the agency had disagreed with its previous concerns.

Changes to E-Verify are concerning some lawyers

The immigration lawyers warned the expansion of E-Verify to include reverification of existing employees was no “simple revision” and amounted to a change in the mission of a congressionally supervised pilot program. AILA said E-Verify was specifically set up for the electronic verification of newly-hired employees.  It stated:

“The proposed reverification of existing employees exceeds the scope of what Congress authorized and appropriated for the E-Verify program.”

The letter said USCIS had many opportunities to inform Congress of its intent to expand E-Verify over the last few years and to add the reverification feature, but it had failed to obtain authorization for the major revision. They called for the rejection of the change.

Recently, Bloomberg noted many employers are only just starting to use the system. The article quoted a Seattle business owner who found almost 10 percent of his workforce was undocumented when he used the tool.

The prospect of losing workers who are undocumented has led some businesses to support deferred action, President Obama’s flagship immigration reform that has stalled in the courts.

Our experienced Austin immigration attorneys help many businesses with all aspects of immigration issues ranging from E-Verify to obtaining visas. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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