Lori Elaine Laird, J.D.

Employers Facing Penalties and Criminal Prosecution for Hiring Undocumented Workers

In General Criminal, Immigration on September 10, 2012 at 4:32 am

 

If you are an employer, the legal requirement to check the eligibility to work of employees has never been more critical.  The Obama administration has concentrated its immigration enforcement efforts on auditing businesses and pursuing criminal prosecutions against businesses that hire undocumented workers.  More than 2,000 businesses are being audited by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) annually during the most recent years of the Obama administration.

The enforcement tactics against businesses also have changed under the Obama administration.  Under President Bush, businesses saw loud raids, but now ICE is employing so-called silent raids designed to disrupt the pool of undocumented employees.  The risk of criminal prosecution and fines for hiring illegal workers has increased because of the criminal liability trap that lurks for unsuspecting employers.  While an employer may face penalties for failing to inquire about incomplete or fraudulent I-9s, efforts to inquire more fully into the documents can expose a business to civil liability based on discrimination claims.  This paradox makes it essential to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney with both immigration and criminal defense experience if you are facing a business audit or criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers.

It is important to understand that the consequences of hiring illegal workers and failing to obtain and keep appropriate employment eligibility documents may include incarceration, ineligibility for government contracts and substantial fines.  If you do not have proper documentation regarding an employee’s eligibility to work after an I-9 audit, the employee must be fired but will not be removed (deported) and may be free to obtain employment with your competitor.

There are precautions that can be used to reduce the risk of facing penalties for fraud, I-9 violations or other offenses related to hiring illegal workers while avoiding discrimination claims, including the following:

  • Use of E-Verify to confirm eligibility for employment
  • Maintain I-9 records for a minimum of three years or a year after an employee leaves the company whichever is longer
  • Implement universal policies and apply them the same way for all employees
  • Preserve accurate and well-organized documentation and records
  • Performing random checks to ensure all employees are completing all information on I-9 forms

If you are hiring new employees, the requirements to verify eligibility for employment are strictly enforced.  When hiring an employee, there are three separate categories of documents that are relevant.  Documents in List A verify both identity and eligibility to work.  Documents in List B confirm identity only, and documents in List C verify employment eligibility only.  Any new employee must provide a document from List A or a document from both List B and List C.  An employer is obligated to obtain these documents within three business days of hiring an employee.  If an employee has lost the documents or for other reasons is unable to provide them, the employee must provide a receipt that shows replacement documents have been requested within three business days.  If the receipt is provided, the employee will have ninety business days to produce the actual documents.  If you cannot produce I-9 document for employees, you may face fines ranging from $100 to $1000 for each missing or non-completed form.

If you are facing penalties and prosecution for an immigration related offense including hiring of illegal workers, Houston attorney Lori Laird has knowledge and experience in both immigration and criminal defense matters.  Houston immigration attorney Lori Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County.  Ms. Laird is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients facing penalties for violations of immigration laws.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston law firm.

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