ESR Background Screening Trend 9 for 2011: E-Verify and I-9 Audits Help Government Find Employers with Illegal Workers

By Lester Rosen, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Editor

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011

Trend No. 9: E-Verify and I-9 Audits Help Government Find Employers with Illegal Workers

An October 2010 press release from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced record-breaking immigration enforcement statistics achieved under the Obama administration, which included issuing more financial sanctions on employers who hired unauthorized workers than during the entire previous Bush administration. Since January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the principal investigative arm of DHS – has audited more than 3,200 employers suspected of hiring workers not legally eligible to work in the U.S., debarred 225 companies and individuals, and imposed approximately $50 million in financial sanctions, according to the DHS.

A summary of fines and penalties from ICE reveals that this surge in enforcement of a legal U.S. workforce included a 500 percent increase in penalties from worksite enforcement actions (over $5 million), a nearly two-fold increase in I-9 audits (2,200), a record-breaking 180 criminal prosecutions of employers, and the debarring of more than 97 businesses, compared to 30 last fiscal year, with average fines exceeding $110,000.

Due in large part to increased scrutiny on employers from ICE through I-9 audits – where employee information on Employment Eligibility Verification Forms (“I-9 forms”) is checked for accuracy by Government agents –  penalties from worksite enforcement inspections have increased recently. The following statistics from ICE compares Fiscal Year 2010 (October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010) with Fiscal Year 2009 (October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009):

  • ICE penalties from worksite enforcement inspections increased to $5,300,000 in FY 2010, up from $1,033,291 in FY 2009.
  • ICE criminally charged a record-breaking 180 owners, employers, managers and/or supervisors in FY 2010, up from 135 in FY 2008 and 114 in FY 2009.
  • ICE conducted more than 2,200 I-9 audits in FY 2010, up from more than 1,400 in FY 2009.
  • ICE debarred 97 business and 49 individuals in FY 2010, up from 30 and 53, respectively, in FY 2009.

These record breaking statistics show that ICE is focusing more on targeting the employers that hire illegal workers through the use of I-9 audits and investigations of their hiring practices. Now more than ever, U.S. employers must regularly review their I-9 compliance practices.

One of the trends that emerged in 2010 and should continue in 2011 is that employers will take steps to ensure they hire a legal workforce by using E-Verify, a free, web-based electronic employment eligibility verification system operated by the U.S. government that enables employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their employees by comparing data from the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 against records in DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. E-Verify is currently being used by more than 230,000 employers at more than 800,000 worksites, according to recent figures from DHS.

Currently, federal contractors and subcontractors in all states must use E-Verify. Many U.S. states have additional state or local E-Verify mandates for either all employers, state agencies, city employees, or have E-Verify legislation pending. A listing of E-Verify requirements can be found on the recently updated (November 22, 2010) online E-Verify State Legislation Map from Tracker Corp available at

Employers may choose to have a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent assist them in maintaining compliance with the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification process. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent – can help employers virtually eliminate I-9 form errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce. To learn more about E-Verify, visit

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is releasing the ESR Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011 throughout December. This is the Ninth of the Top Ten Trends ESR will be tracking in 2011. To see an updated list of ESR’s ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011, visit:  

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was also the third background screening company to be ‘Safe Harbor’ certified. For more information, visit or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations and Business Development, at 415.898.0044 or