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ICE Fines New Jersey Business Over $600,000 for Immigration Employment Violations

320px-Secaucus_Junction_interior.jpgA New Jersey business has settled with the federal government regarding accusations of failure to verify employees’ work eligibility and employment of undocumented or otherwise unauthorized immigrants. After an audit of the company’s I-9 employment eligibility verification records allegedly revealed multiple deficiencies, the company reached an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to pay a fine of $625,000. The case helps demonstrate how the government assesses fines in cases of alleged employment violations.

HSI reportedly received an anonymous tip regarding a Secaucus, New Jersey clothing manufacturer. The tipster claimed that the company was hiring undocumented immigrants who lacked authorization to work in the United States. Federal immigration laws require all employers to complete a Form I-9 for each employee, and to retain that form in their personnel records. The form requests evidence demonstrating the employee’s authorization to work in the U.S. This can include evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as a passport, or evidence of legal permanent residence, like a green card. Other forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or social security card, may also satisfy the requirements of the I-9 form. Individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents must present a work authorization card or other evidence of immigration authorities’ permission to obtain employment in the U.S.

HSI audited the company’s I-9 records in March 2012 and said that it found “serious deficiencies” in the company’s employment practices. The company and HSI agreed to the $625,000 fine in July. HSI’s announcement did not say how large of a fine it initially sought, nor did it provide any information on the alleged number of undocumented immigrants hired by the company.

The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Department of Justice, has issued several recent decisions identifying factors affecting how much ICE may fine an employer for alleged immigration employment violations. In a 2010 decision in United States v. Snack Attack Deli, Inc., OCAHO reduced a fine of more than $100,000 assessed by ICE to just over $27,000. The respondent in the case, a Subway Restaurant franchisee, failed to maintain I-9 records for over one hundred employees, but ICE offered no evidence that any of its employees actually lacked work authorization. The business was very small, never having more than a few employees at a time, and it likely lacked the resources to pay a six-figure fine. It had no prior record of violations. OCAHO considered these mitigating factors. It also identified two aggravating factors. The fact that the business never obtained any I-9’s from most employees indicated a flagrant disregard for the law, according to OCAHO. Additionally, many of the I-9’s that the business did have had been backdated. OCAHO cut the fine by more than three-fourths in consideration of the mitigating factors. It reached a similar conclusion in another case, United States v. Ice Castles Daycare Too, involving a comparable business.

Samuel C. Berger, P.C. helps immigrants seeking visas to work for, or invest in, a New York or New Jersey business, and helps businesses petition for skilled immigrant employees. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today, contact us online or at (212) 380-8117.

Web Resources:

Final Decision and Order (PDF file), United States v. Snack Attack Deli, Inc., 10 OCAHO no. 1137, December 22, 2010
Final Decision and Order (PDF file), United States v. Ice Castles Daycare Too, Inc., 10 OCAHO no. 1142, September 22, 2011
More Blog Posts:

New White House Immigration Policy Offers Opportunities and Risks for Young Undocumented Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2012
New York Company Joins Federal Immigration Compliance Program, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2012
Immigration Reform on the Agenda for High-Tech Companies Lobbying Congress, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Secaucus Junction interior’ by NHRHS2010 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.