With the appointment of Janet Napolitano to head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. employers should be prepared for a potential increase in immigration enforcement. Secretary Napolitano has a long history of immigration enforcement activities and experience, demonstrated during her service as twice elected governor of Arizona and former Attorney General and U.S. attorney.
Since Secretary Napolitano’s appointment earlier this year, she has repeatedly indicated that her approach to immigration enforcement will be on the demand (employer) side of the immigration equation. In a written statement made to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during her confirmation, she said she would “take a close look at the design and operation of worksite enforcement actions to ensure that the focus is on unscrupulous employers.” She has pledged to increase criminal penalties for employer violations and to encourage employers to work with federal agencies in establishing sound immigration compliance programs for prevention of unlawful hiring.
Employers should take steps to ensure they are in compliance with immigration laws, including Form I-9 requirements. Such steps should include the following:
- Perform an annual internal audit of I-9 records and arrange for review of I-9 records by an external auditor every other year.
- Create, maintain, and distribute up-to-date and uniform policies on employment verification and social security number mismatch notice response procedures.
- Train human resources and hiring personnel on employment authorization, immigration and discrimination rules.
- Maintain a “reminder” system to alert employees of upcoming work authorization expiration dates.
- Include I-9 related provisions in service contracts clearly denoting which party has responsibility for immigration requirements.
- Have a protocol in place to address visits by government investigators.
If you have questions regarding immigration-related employer obligations, or if you would like more information on employment authorization training sessions offered by Michael Best, please contact José A. Olivieri at 414.225.4967, or Kelly M. Fortier at 414.277.3460.