Company Forfeits 2 Million Dollars to DHS for Hiring Illegal Workers and Agrees to Use E-Verify

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – recently announced in a press release that a Houston, Texas-based tree trimming company has avoided criminal prosecution for employing illegal workers by agreeing to forfeit $2 million to the DHS related to revenue derived from the employment of illegal workers. The company has also agreed to adhere to revised immigration compliance procedures that include the use of E-Verify, a free electronic employment eligibility verification system run by the U.S. government. The press release from ICE is available at: http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1205/120518houston.htm.

According the press release, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents began investigating ABC Professional Tree Services Inc. (ABC) in 2008 following complaints that a significant portion of the company’s employees were undocumented aliens. HIS agents reviewed the Employment Eligibility Verification Forms – known as “Form I-9” – and other documentation for approximately 2,500 employees at the company. As of the second quarter of 2009, the inspection had revealed that “a significant number of employees” – about 30 percent of the workforce – consisted of undocumented aliens who had presented invalid personal identification information when hired.

In March 2010, HSI agents executed a federal search warrant at ABC’s Houston headquarters and seized employment and personnel records. The government’s investigation revealed the company “ignored federal law by falsely attesting on I-9s that work authorization documents presented by new hires appeared genuine” and received notices from the Social Security Administration known as “no-match letters” indicating employee names and Social Security numbers did not match SSA records. Since ABC derived approximately $2 million in revenue with its illegal workforce, the figure represents the amount of money that the company forfeited under its non-prosecution agreement with the government.

Since the investigation, ABC has “imposed significant immigration compliance measures” that includes the use of E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows employers to verify the legal work authorization status of newly hired employees to work in the United States by checking information on the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 that all newly hired employees in the U.S. are required to complete against DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. The company also has introduced “new policies concerning the proper completion, retention, and auditing of I-9s and for responding to SSA No Match letters” and has terminated hundreds of undocumented workers.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 made it unlawful for an employer “to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for employment in the United States an alien knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.” The IRCA also requires employers to take steps to verify an employee’s eligibility for employment. In an attempt to improve that employment eligibility verification process, the U.S. Congress created E-Verify. While federal law mandates that federal contractors and subcontractors in all states use E-Verify, several U.S. states have enacted laws mandating E-Verify usage, creating a confusing patchwork of E-Verify regulations.

With the government stepping up inspections for Form I-9 compliance, employers may choose to have a ‘Designated E-Verify Employer Agent’ assist them in maintaining Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance. E-Verify can help virtually eliminate Form I-9 errors, improve the accuracy of reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – is a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent. To learn more, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/formi9.php.

Related ESR News Blog: USCIS Proposes Revisions to Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification and Seeks Public Comment

Source:
http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1205/120518houston.htm

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