Immigration Enforcement Warning Issued by Western Growers
Because President Donald Trump has issued a number of immigration-related executive orders, including the “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which focuses on interior immigration enforcement, Western Growers has issued a warning to its members.
Western Growers, which represents farmers in Arizona, California, and Colorado who produce half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts, advises its members to begin preparing for increased worksite enforcement and renewed emphasis on Form I-9 audits.
Employers should be proactive to recognize and correct Form I-9 problems before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes knocking on the door. Now is the time to audit all Form I-9s to ensure they are completed fully and accurately.
“Minor paperwork mistakes” or “technical errors” can result in costly penalties for employers. Employers must make appropriate corrections if they have identified mistakes on their Form I-9s.
It is important that employers perform internal audits on a regular basis and make corrections before receiving a Notice of Inspection from ICE. If employers wait to make corrections after ICE sends a “Notice of Inspection,” they will likely incur much steeper fines and penalties, up to $1,100 for each I-9 or employee for even “minor” technical violations.
Fines are significantly higher for more substantive I-9 violations (e.g., missing work authorization information, missing I-9’s, etc.); and up to $16,000 for knowingly employing unauthorized workers.
Correcting Form I-9’s incorrectly can result in additional penalties. So members should consult legal counsel, or — at a minimum — have staff specifically trained on how to properly correct I-9’s, before making corrections.
As Western Growers noted in a previous blog post, in his first week in office, Trump signed a flurry of immigration-related executive orders.
The “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” executive order primarily concerns the building of a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Republican congressional leaders have said they will move forward with plans to approve funds for the wall, which they estimate will cost between $12 billion and $15 billion.
The “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” executive order pertains to interior enforcement, including reversing the enforcement priorities that had been put into place under the Obama Administration, such as making agriculture a low priority for immigration enforcement.
This order also calls for prioritizing the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have, among other things, been “convicted of any criminal offense,” “have been charged with any criminal offense,” “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” or “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter.” The order also gives significant latitude to ICE officers in making such determinations.
Additionally, the interior enforcement order calls on the Department of Homeland Security to hire 10,000 additional ICE officers and empowers state and local law enforcement agencies to perform the functions of immigration enforcement.
Western Growers expects President Trump to sign more immigration-related executive orders in the near future, including one affecting foreign visa programs, including the H-2A program. Another order is expected to allow recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) authorization to remain in their current status but disallow further DACA renewals.