ICE Launches Nationwide I-9 Audits

According to the American Staffing Association, now is the time for all staffing firms (and all companies in general) to review their Form I-9 procedures to ensure that they are consistent and compliant as ICE launches another round of nationwide I-9 audits.

The Obama administration has pledged to uphold federal immigration laws by targeting and investigating employers that employ illegal immigrants. This includes a comprehensive review of Forms I-9, which employers are required to complete and retain for each employee.

Earlier this month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent hundreds of notices of inspection (NOIs) to companies throughout the U.S.  ICE officials say the NOIs are the result of reports alleging employment of illegal workers, wage violations and other illegal workplace practices.

If an employer receives an NOI, it has three days to submit Forms I-9 for inspection. Depending on specific factors, an extension may be granted.

According to ICE,  more than 2,000 inspections have been conducted in FY 2010. This marks an increase from 1,444 inspections in FY 2009, 503 in FY 2008, and 254 in FY 2007. So far in FY 2010, ICE has assessed $5.3 million in penalties, compared with $1,033,291 in FY 2009 and $675,209 in FY 2008. The number of criminal arrests of employers is also on the rise. The agency says the initiative illustrates its increased focus on holding employers accountable for their hiring practices and efforts to ensure a legal workforce.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to protect your organization in the event of an ICE audit by making sure that you have a valid I-9 on file for all current employees and a written procedure for handling the I-9 process.  It might also be a good time to have an outside consultant conduct an I-9 audit to ensure full compliance.

Scores of Convicted Felons Permitted to Work as Home Care Aides in California

 Privacy laws are important and convicted criminals certainly should have the right to gainful employment.  However, what about the rights of the general public? Should we, as consumers, at least have the right to know who we are dealing with?

A case in point is the California state home health aide program. California’s home health aide program permits felons to work as home care aides and the consumers who use the program (many of whom are elderly, infirm and disabled) cannot be told that they may end up in the care of someone who has committed a violent crime due to privacy restrictions. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, California state health care workers currently include people convicted of rape, arson, selling drugs, armed robbery, and burglary, among others. “We are allowing these people into the homes of vulnerable individuals without supervision,” said John Wagner, director of the state Department of Social Services.

State officials have identified at least 210 workers and applicants who are unsuitable to work in the program.  All of whom are scheduled to resume or begin employment.

The strict limits on who can be barred from working in the program stem from a lawsuit that advocates won in March 2010 in Alameda County Superior Court. They sued after the Schwarzenegger administration tried to bar all convicted felons from employment in the program.  Exactly who could be barred was unclear until the court ruling as the restrictions were included in legislation drafted as part of a late budget deal.

The court sided with the advocates who argued that the legislation limited those who could be expelled from the program to a narrow group of offenders, so people in need would not lose a trusted provider who had committed an offense such as theft or drunk driving.  Only a conviction of specific types of child abuse, elder care abuse or defrauding of public assistance programs can disqualify a person under the court ruling.

Recently implemented anti-fraud measures by the Schwarzenegger administration include background checks for employees, fingerprinting of care recipients and spot checks by investigators.  Advocates feel these measures are invasive and do not root out fraud because little is being committed.

Administrators and law enforcement officials are understandably alarmed and warned lawmakers, who have the power to change the program’s rules, that the program needs to be changed to protect the consumers who use the program. However, efforts to address the problem have been stalled in the Legislature.

In this particular case, the felons seem to have all the rights; but who is protecting the public? Does the public have the right to have aide workers background checked?  And, most of all, does the public have the right to know that they may end up in the care of someone who has committed a violent crime?