By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

I-9 Notices of Inspection (NOI)/audits and criminal investigations, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents increased by leaps and bounds FY 2018 compared to FY 2017. As previously reported, during one week in July 2018, HSI delivered 2738 NOIs, more than all NOIs served in FY 2017. See

In fiscal year 2018, HSI initiated 5,981 NOIs compared to 1,360 opened in FY 2017. Furthermore, HIS initiated another 867 worksite investigations, which were not I-9 audits, compared to 361 in FY 2017. Also, HSI made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests in FY 2017 compared to 139 and 172, respectively.

These numbers are supposed to greatly increase again in FY 2019. ICE has developed a plan to conduct between 10,000 to 15,000 I-9 audits a year if it can receive appropriate funding and support from other areas of the Trump administration. ICE/HSI’s Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner stated one of their goals is to create a "reasonable expectation" among employers that they will be audited. "This is kind of our vision of creating this culture of compliance," he said.

Businesses were ordered to pay more than $10.2 million in judicial fines, forfeitures and restitutions in FY 2018. The largest fine was against Waste Management of Texas, who agreed to a settlement forfeiting more than $5.5 million due to a pattern and practice of hiring undocumented workers at the company’s Houston location. See Another company, Seaboard Corporation, an Oklahoma-based agri-business, agreed to a $1 million civil settlement to resolve allegations that it hired and employed unauthorized workers and failed to properly complete I-9 forms. See HSI also levied businesses another $10.2 million in civil penalties in FY 2018.

In FY 2017, there were $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines and restitution, including Asplundh Tree Experts, who forfeited $80 million and paid $15 million in judicial fine, the largest monetary penalty ever levied by ICE in an immigration case. See Additionally, ICE imposed $9.8 million in civil fines FY 2017.

Although criminal indictments and convictions remained at a steady level compared to previous years, those numbers are expected to greatly increase as a result of the many ongoing investigations initiated in FY 2018, which can take months to years to fully develop. In fiscal year 2018, HSI caused 72 managers to be indicted compared to 71 in FY 2017, and 49 managers convicted in FY 2018 versus 55 in FY 2017.

In a press release from ICE/HSI, Benner stated “Employers who use an illegal workforce as part of their business model put businesses that do follow the law at a competitive disadvantage. [Immigration enforcement] laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, reduce the incentive of illegal migration, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and ultimately help strengthen public safety and national security.”

Will your company be the next target? My advice is to be prepared through an internal I-9 Audit. An immigration attorney familiar with I-9 forms and worksite enforcement is the perfect person to assist you in an internal I-9 audit.

If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at