By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

On the heels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “silent raids” on almost 100 7-Eleven convenience stores and the resolution of a worksite enforcement case against Asplundh Tree Experts Co., which paid a record $95 million in fines and forfeitures, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a three-prong approach to conduct worksite enforcement. In doing so, ICE stated this ensures employees are legally authorized to work in the United States for employers, from small start-up operations to the largest corporations.

This strategy involves a three-prong approach to worksite enforcement: immigration compliance, through Form I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment; enforcement, through the arrest of employers, knowingly employing undocumented workers, and the arrest of unauthorized workers for violation of laws associated with working without authorization; and outreach, through the IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) prioritizes violators who abuse and exploit their workers, aid in the smuggling or trafficking of their alien workforce into the United States, create false identity documents or facilitate document fraud, or create an entire business model using an unauthorized workforce,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek Benner. “Further priority is given to looking closely at those companies or industries that are deemed national security or critical infrastructure interests.” ICE also stated an effective worksite enforcement strategy must address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers themselves.

ICE’s statement highlighted the recent resolution of a case against Asplundh Tree Experts Co., one of the largest privately-held companies in the United States. This case revealed a scheme to unlawfully employ undocumented workers, in which the highest levels of Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States. The company pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a monetary forfeiture judgment in the amount of $80 million – the largest judgment ever handed down in a worksite enforcement investigation. They are also required to abide by an administrative compliance agreement. Pursuant to a separate civil settlement agreement, Asplundh will pay an additional $15 million to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with immigration law, bringing the total cost of this illegal scheme to $95 million.

To learn more about employer immigration compliance and steps you can take to prevent I-9 violations and hiring undocumented workers, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.