Combatting Immigration Fraud: The Critical Role of Employers

Immigration fraud and the employment of unauthorized workers are among the top priorities for federal enforcement. Employers find themselves at the forefront of this battle, and what might seem like a minor I-9 compliance issue can quickly escalate into a significant problem with serious consequences. For businesses facing ICE audits in San Diego, California, securing qualified legal representation is crucial to navigate the complexities and avoid potential legal troubles.

Federal Compliance Obligations

Under the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), employers in San Diego and across the nation must adhere to specific compliance obligations. These regulations dictate how employers should evaluate both prospective and current employees. Failure to comply can lead to severe repercussions from federal authorities. Businesses found employing unauthorized workers or individuals not permitted to work in the United States face substantial penalties. In cases of intentional violations, company owners and executives may even face criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Be Prepared for ICE Audits

As an employer, it is vital to be prepared for any eventuality. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could initiate an investigation at any time. Receiving a Notice of Inspection (NOI) indicating suspected non-compliance requires immediate and informed action. Understanding the subsequent steps and knowing how to respond effectively can help mitigate undesirable outcomes.

Expert Legal Defense with Behar International Counsel

If you are facing an ICE audit or investigation, Behar International Counsel is here to defend your interests and ensure a favorable outcome. Whether you are based locally in San Diego, regionally, or nationwide, our team of experienced lawyers and former federal agents is ready to represent you. Our consultants, including former agents from agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), provide invaluable guidance and strategic insight. The combined expertise of our San Diego ICE and I-9 audit defense attorneys and consultants ensures the development of robust strategies to handle your case effectively.

Whether you or your company has been issued a “Notice of Inspection” (NOI) or a “Notice of Intent to Fine” (NOIF), the attorneys at Behar International Counsel can help.  We are also available to provide I-9 Consulting services so that when you are issued a NOI you are ready. 

Since November 1986, every new hire must complete Section 1 of the I-9 form attesting to the individual’s identity and employment eligibility on the first day of employment. Within the first three days of hire, employers must complete Section 2 of the I-9 by examining original documents of identity and employment authorization, recording the starting date of employment, noting the document number(s) on the form and certifying by signature under penalty of perjury that the documents examined appear to be genuine and relate to the employee.

Non-compliance with I-9 requirements can result in serious sanctions, including civil fines, criminal penalties, exclusion from government contracts, or court orders requiring payment of back pay or the hiring of a particular individual.

If Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) believes that your company has violated I-9 requirements, they can impose harsh civil and even criminal penalties. For example, civil sanctions can be imposed as follows for knowingly hiring or continuously employing an unauthorized individual:

  • First offense — $375 to $3,200 per worker

  • Second offense — $3,200 to $6,500 per worker

  • Third offense — $4,300 to $16,000 per worker

Government audits of an employer’s I-9 forms are now commonplace. Upon receipt of an “Notice of Inspection” (NOI), company representatives should contact immigration counsel immediately. An employer must be given three days’ notice before an audit may take place, although additional time may often be negotiated. The government is entitled to inspect the I-9 forms and to request a list of current and terminated employees. The parameters of the audit do not allow the government to review personnel forms, speak with employees or enter the company’s nonpublic areas.

As a pre-emptive measure, our attorneys at Behar International Counsel are available to conduct a thorough review of your company’s I-9 compliance. Reviewing the I-9 forms provides an employer the opportunity to correct existing technical violations, train company representatives responsible for I-9 completion and tracking, and help develop compliance procedures. 

If you have been issued a “Notice of Intent to Fine” (NOIF) our attorneys can assist in requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge and/or negotiating a lower fine.


Behar international counsel provides a full-range of immigration legal assistance to our clients. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.
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