CPA Practice Advisor

NOV 2018

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24 NOVEMBER 2018 ■ www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com THE LABOR LAW ADVISOR RICHARD D. ALANIZ Senior Partner Alaniz Schraeder Linker Faris Mayes, L.L.P. ralaniz@alaniz-schraeder.com ICE and Your Small Business Clients - Be Prepared The roar of churning helicopter blades, the flashing of lights on the vehicles of armed local and federal law enforcement agents, blocked roads surrounding the plant, and panicked employees running in all directions, this was the scene recently at the Southern Provision meat packing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee. Almost 100 unauthorized workers were rounded up for processing and deportation. Their devastated families struggled to get information about their loved-ones. Mothers in custody worried about who would care for their children when they were unable to return home. Somewhat similar scenes have been repeated at several other workplaces in the past several months. Why? The short answer is that aggressive enforcement against illegal immigration is the order of the day. It has been several years since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted surprise raids on unsuspecting workplaces. It is one of the tools ICE has once again begun to use to address the illegal immigrant issue that so dominates today’s news cycle. This division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has some on the left calling for its elimination, has been much more assertive in conducting workplace monitoring in 2018 than in any prior year. Considerably more! That is to be expected given the laser-like focus on illegal immigration of the Trump administration. Attempting to dry up the jobs magnet that is the ultimate attraction for most illegal immigrants is one of the highest priorities of the administration. In the first seven months of this year, there have been over 5,000 I-9 audits of U.S. workplaces. That is more than four times the number of Notices of Inspection (NOIs) (audits) that were issued in all of 2017. In addition, ICE agents have arrested an average of over 4,000 illegal immigrants per month compared to the slightly more than 1700 per month during the Obama administration. The practice of conducting workplace raids, largely unused during the last administration, has returned with vigor as seen in the Southern Provision case and several others. In another recent high profile case involving a large mid-western flower and garden center, ICE agents working undercover went to the employee breakroom and began passing out donuts shortly before the raid. Over 100 undocumented workers were taken into custody, many of them while they were enjoying their government-issued donuts. These employees were then processed for deportation. Does all of this increased focus on workplace enforcement mean that you are likely to receive an NOI in the near future? That may depend upon your particular industry. While ICE does not reveal which industries are being targeted, it is apparent that the recent focus has been on businesses that have a heavy concentration of Latino/Hispanic employees, such as meat packing, horticulture and similar labor intensive industries. Businesses in other industries that have received an NOI generally drew scrutiny because of specific complaints or incidents, often involving identity theft or rejected job applicants. But this does not mean that if you are not in one of these targeted industries you should have no concerns. The ICE focus on workplaces is not likely to diminish any time soon. What Can You Do? There are pro-active steps that a judicious employer may want to consider. One of the most simple and cost-effective measures that an employer can take is to conduct a self-audit of their I-9s. The most common result of an ICE audit is fines for technical recordkeeping violations. Employers are always free to correct some of the more common, correctable errors before a formal audit occurs. In fact, since an employer has three days in which to submit the I-9s pursuant to an NOI many employers use that three day period to attempt to correct these types of mistakes. Some of the more common errors made in completing the I-9s that can trigger fines are: ■ Failure to re-verify the work authorization of employees with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card); ■ Re-verifying the documents of U.S.

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