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Immigration and employment audits: MN case shows a flawed system

Four years ago, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) began conducting audits of employers, seeking to verify compliance with rules regarding work authorization. In theory, the goal of such audits is to create a manageable compliance process that does not rely on raids of employers aimed at the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

In practice, however, the worker eligibility process is a complicated one that involves many potential issues. A recent Minnesota case involving a daycare operator offers a glimpse of the issues that can arise.

The employer in question was a Spanish language daycare and pre-school provider. ICE’s audit asserted that 60 of the 160 workers at the employer’s two locations were possibly not eligible to work in the U.S.

The threatened loss of so many workers immediately impacted the two businesses. The school decided to close after numerous workers decided to leave rather than insist that the paperwork supporting their work eligibility was in order. The daycare has stayed open, but has had to bring in replacement staff for workers affected by the immigration audit.

This Minnesota case reflects a larger national problem. For years, efforts to create a better system for monitoring work eligibility have faltered.

To be sure, there is a standard form, I-9, to be used by employers to report to immigration authorities on employment eligibility of their workers. And employers can face financial penalties for filling it out falsely.

But sometimes workers’ documentation is sketchy. And E-Verify, the electronic system that is supposed to allow employers to determine whether job applicants are allowed to work in the U.S., is not a mandatory program. Under current law, it is merely optional.

Source: MPR News, “Spanish immersion daycare’s immigration issues raise larger questions,” Sasha Aslanian, July 18, 2013

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