Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ICE Issues Guidance for Employers

Employers must comply with immigration laws and take steps to ensure their new hires have valid work papers. This is no easy task. Some unauthorized workers engage in fraudulent practices to avoid the legal requirements, either by using fake papers or by using genuine papers belonging to actual citizens. ICE has issued a Worksite Enforcement Advisory, "Know Your Workforce: The Key to Immigration Compliance," to make employers aware of significant fraud trends and to help prevent identity theft at work.

Things Employers Should Watch

1. Notable changes in the claimed citizenship or immigration status of your workforce. ICE investigations have uncovered schemes by document vendors who traffic in legitimate identification documents belonging to U.S. citizens, typically from one particular state or territory. If you notice that your new hires are suddenly presenting identical documentation from one particular location, this may warrant further inquiry.

2. Social Security “Employer Correction Requests” or No-Match letters. The Social Security Administration periodically sends out letters to employers requesting information when a name does not match a number. ICE suggests that you: 1) respond to Social Security “Employer Correction Requests” or no-match letters; 2) check your records to ensure you have recorded the information correctly; 3) check with your employee to verify the information given to you is correct; 4) verify any corrections with SSA; and 5) encourage the employee to resolve the issue with SSA and ensure any corrections are valid by checking again with SSA.

3. Any other discrepancies identified by the Social Security Number Verification System. If a company finds inconsistencies after submitting a Social Security number to the Social Security Administration, employers should immediately check their records for errors and discuss/address the issue with the employee and the SSA if the error cannot be identified. See www.socialsecurity.gov for instructions on proper use of the SSNVS system.

Suggestions for Employers

• E-Verify. ICE suggests that employers enroll in the online E- Verify program to verify employment eligibility for all of your new employees. Updates to this system such as the use of a “photo tool” and the implementation of fraud detection procedures will help to reduce instances of impostor related fraud.

• Be Proactive. Do not ignore information that you learn as an employer that indicates an employee is not authorized to work. In one case, an employee of a company noticed co-workers tearing up IRS W-2 records and told a manager, who said it did “not matter since those employees were illegal anyway.” ICE learned about this, and the investigation ultimately led to the arrest of several managers as well as a large portion of the work force. Face any discrepancies - don't hide them - or civil and criminal penalties could arise.

• Don’t Discriminate. Remember not to discriminate against workers based on their accents, color, national origin, or citizenship status. When complying with your company’s documentation requirements, treat all workers with respect and dignity, and do not request more or different documents or refuse to honor documents that appear genuine and relate to the individual.

Additional Resources and Issues

A copy of the ICE Employer Advisory may be obtained at www.ice.gov/pi/worksite/index.htm;
Kimberlie K. Ryan, The Ryan Law Firm, LLC, www.lawyers.com/ryanfirm