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Illegal Worker Enforcement Focus Shifts to Employers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on April 10 released a new "Worksite Enforcement Strategy" amending imigration law enforcement priorities that were promulgated in April 2006 by the previous Administration and focused on the arrest and removal of illegal immigrants.

The new strategy de-emphasizes the use of raids on work sites and mass arrests of illegal immigrants on construction sites.

Instead, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been instructed to focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowlingly hire illegal workers. Smugglers, traffickers, those who harbor illegal immigrants and those who mistreat immigrant workers are designated for special attention.

In addition, ICE agents have been instructed to follow high investigative standards and to "obtain indictments, criminal arrest or search warrants, or a commitment from a U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute the targeted employer before arresting employees for civil immigration violations at the work site."

Although work site raids are still possible, humanitarian guidelines requiring the employment of social service agencies to ensure that detainees and their children are not placed at risk now must be followed whenever enforcement actions involve 25 or more illegal workers. (Previously, the guidelines took effect only when enforcement actions involved more than 150 illegal workers.)

Under the new strategy, employers should expect a heightened scrutiny of their hiring practices and their compliance with the requirements of the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986.

Employers are advised to faithtfully comply with the 1-9 verification process for new hires, to use current forms and to adhere to all record-keeping requirements in anticipation of an increased possibility that they might be subjected to an I-9 audit.

For information on the I-9 verification process, I-9 audits and the current I-9 Form (downloadable), click here

To view the Department of Homeland Security's April 30, 2009 Worksite Enforcement Strategy, click here

For more information, e-mail David Crump at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8491.

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