By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Recently, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced that ICE worksite enforcement statistics climbed to historically high record numbers in Fiscal Year 2010 – from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010 – with more audits of businesses than ever before and increases in prosecutions of employers who hired illegal workers.

According to a news release from the DHS, ICE – the largest investigative arm of the DHS – also removed more illegal aliens than in any other period in U.S. history, removing more than 392,000 illegal aliens, and nearly half of them – more than 195,000 – were convicted of crimes, including murder, sex offenses, and drug violations.

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 employer scrutiny and several waves of I-9 audits from the U.S. Government, penalties from worksite enforcement inspections have increased in recent months. Here are the latest statistics from ICE comparing Fiscal Year 2010 with Fiscal Year 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.

Since January 2009, ICE has audited more than 3,200 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor, debarred 225 companies and individuals, and imposed approximately $50 million in financial sanctions-more than the total amount of audits and debarments than during the entire previous administration, according to the news release.

These statistics show that in the past year, ICE has been focusing less on rounding up illegal workers and more on targeting the employers that hire illegal workers through the use of Form I-9 audits and investigations of their hiring practices. In April 2009, the DHS even released a ‘Worksite Enforcement Strategy Fact Sheet’ detailing the most common reasons why a company might receive an audit, as well as who can be targeted.

Now more than ever, U.S. employers must regularly review their Employment Eligibility Verification Form – “Form I-9” – compliance practices. To help maintain Form I-9 compliance and avoid I-9 audits, employers may choose to use the Government’s E-Verify system, an online Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification system that is used along with the Form I-9 to allow employers to check if an employee is legally eligible to work in the United States.

Employers may also choose to have a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent assist them in maintaining compliance in 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.

For more information about the E-Verify Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification system, visit


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