I-9 Compliance: What Hotel Employers Should Do Before ICE Comes Knocking

By Kristine Sova Attorney, Law Office of Kristine A. Sova | October 16, 2011

Co-authored by Lesley Pate Marlin, Attorney, Venable LLP

While seemingly unimportant, those pesky one-pagers known as the "Form I-9" that all employers are required to complete for new hires can be the source of significant liability. Since taking office, the Obama Administration has been targeting employer compliance with I-9 paperwork and has drastically increased the number of I-9 audits conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The result? In fiscal year 2010, ICE agents recovered penalties of $6.9 million from businesses, criminally charged nearly 200 business owners and managers with immigration violations, and conducted more than 2,000 compliance audits of employer-prepared I-9 work eligibility forms.

Unfortunately, 2011 has not provided a reprieve for employers. Midway through fiscal year 2011, ICE agents already recovered record penalties of $7.1 million from businesses, criminally charged nearly 160 business owners and managers with immigration violations, and conducted more than 2,300 compliance audits of employer-prepared I-9 forms.

Hotels are Among the Employers Most Likely to be Audited

ICE no longer randomly selects employers for I-9 audits. Instead, ICE targets employers based upon leads and intelligence, whether it be from the public, a referral from another law enforcement agency (such as the Department of Labor), or a news article. In addition, ICE concentrates upon industries notorious for hiring of illegal immigrants as well as businesses that may present vulnerabilities at critical infrastructure sites. As a result, hotels, particularly ones located near airports or mass transit, can expect a greater likelihood of audit.

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