A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Business Owners Penalized for Immigration Violations

Recently, a restaurant owner in Maryland was sentenced to four months in prison and four months of home detention with electronic monitoring, plus two more years of supervised release, for immigration violations. The sentence is in additional to forfeiture of nearly $750,000 worth of gains of the crime, including a 2009 Harley Davidson. George A. is the owner of two restaurant owners in Maryland. The crime: knowing hiring of undocumented workers at his two restaurants. As early as 1999, 10 undocumented workers were already arrested by immigration officers at one of his restaurant. However, George A. continued to hire employees without authorization to work in the U.S. from 2000 to 2005. He failed to obtain proper documents from his workers to verify their identity and employment eligibility. In fact, fake or fraudulent documents were found in the employees’ personnel files. Mr. George A. admitted that over the last five years he hired at least 24 illegal alien employees at his employees for financial gains, harboring them in employer housing, and failing to pay them the legal wages.

Separately, the Catholic Healthcare West agreed to pay the United States Treasury a civil penalty in the amount of $257,000.00 for failing to complete the I-9 form for its employees and other related violations.

In September, the national clothing chain Abercrombie & Fitch reached a $1,047,100 of fine settlement with the government for violations of failure to verify the employment eligibility of its workers. In 2008, an inspection of the company’s electronic I-9 verification system discovered a number of deficiencies. The company has announced that it will take steps to fix these deficiencies and improve its I-9 system.

The Form I-9 is a form that an employer must complete within three days of hiring a new worker – whether or not the worker is a U.S. citizen or not. The employer is required to review and record the individual’s identity and employment eligibility documents and determine whether these documents reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual. The current administration’s immigration policy emphasizes employer compliance and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the agency that enforces the immigration laws. ICE agents conduct on-site visit and inspection, reviewing all I-9 forms and related employee documents for compliance. As the above examples indicate, violations will result in substantial amount of fines and even jail time for employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. It is important to note that ICE is not only targeting one group of employers. Employers of various sizes and industries and locations are similarly scrutinized by ICE officials.

According to ICE, effective worksite enforcement plays an important role in fighting against illegal immigration. The goals of worksite enforcement strategy are to address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers who are present in the U.S. without authorization. Hence, in worksite cases, ICE investigators will look for evidence of the mistreatment of workers, along with evidence of trafficking, smuggling, harboring, visa fraud, identification document fraud, money laundering and other such criminal conduct.

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