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A Better Partnership


Jul 2012
July 13, 2012

I-9 Audits: Are You Ready?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security, has dramatically increased the number of I-9 audits it performs—from 503 in 2008 to nearly 2,500 last year. All indications are that most large companies (as well as many smaller companies that come to the attention of ICE for one reason or another, including tips from anonymous informants) will face I-9 audits within the next three years.

What this means for employers:  
  • ICE has levied $10.4 million in fines and has criminally charged 221 employers for their hiring practices since 2008.
  • In egregious cases, if ICE determines that anyone in management knew or should have known of an employee’s illegal status, the individual may be criminally liable and subject to criminal penalties, including jail.  If management knows that workers employed through temporary agencies are not authorized to work, management may again be found criminally liable.
  • Companies commonly make multiple errors when completing the one-page I-9 form. Each error may be assessed a separate fine so that a single I-9 form may be the basis for thousands of dollars in fines.
  • The legal handbook for I-9 compliance contains 1,000 pages, so while the form may appear to be simple, it clearly is not.
The attorneys at Warner Norcross & Judd have guided hundreds of clients through both internal and ICE audits. We can train or retrain your HR team, help you conduct an internal audit in advance of an ICE audit and flag errors that might attract attention.

Having legal counsel during an ICE audit may help you avoid fines, negative publicity, criminal charges, business interruption and even debarment from federal contracts. If you have questions or want assistance, you may contact immigration attorney Angela Jenkins (616.752.2480 or or criminal defense and compliance attorney Sarah Riley Howard (616.752.2541 or

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