Last week saw Obama administration issuing more than 1000 I-9 audit notices in an effort to monitor I-9 compliance deficiency and track employers who harbor illegal immigrants in their workforce. This move can be seen as a step to intensify a crackdown on the government’s agenda to fight illegal immigration in the country.

The surge brings the number of companies audited by immigration authorities to 2,338 in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, surpassing last year’s record 2,196. The total amount of fines levied against employers for breaking labor and immigration laws reached $7.1 million compared with $6.9 million for the entire previous fiscal year. In the past enforcement activity during the Bush administration focused on high-profile raids in which thousands of illegal immigrants were arrested and placed in deportation proceedings. The Obama administration has shifted focus to employers targeting people responsible for acquiring and maintaining the workforce rather than the workforce itself. However, audits affecting such businesses as garment makers, produce growers and fast-food chains, result in the firing of every illegal immigrant found on a company’s payroll.

Officials of ICE, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, said the audited companies operate in areas defined as critical infrastructure and key resources, including food production, information technology, financial services and construction. Affected businesses could include cargo handlers, caterers of food for the military and builders of dams and highways, said immigration lawyers.

The ICE audit has a lot of implications for the employer as any non-compliance can result in negative publicity, civil and criminal penalties and to top it all fines and financial liabilities. An adverse audit of the nation’s leading fast food chain has led the company to fire illegal immigrants from its workforce. This has forced them to hire and train new staff and is now eating into the company’s bottom-line.

Even though there are companies who have gone to the extent of setting up departments to be compliant with federal and legal regulations, most small and medium companies find it difficult to police their workforce for fear of discrimination lawsuits and similar implications.

The ICE notice follows soon after Rep. Smith’s putting up legislation on making E-Verify mandatory in the country. Either ways it is now becoming imperative that a company follow some process to ensure its employers’ I-9s are being processed properly to avoid negative repercussions.

EMPTrust can help you with your I-9 and E-Verification process. EMPTrust’s software application allows companies to manage I-9 forms and seamlessly integrate with employment eligibility verification (E-Verify) all at one go.

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Any issues regarding compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations should be addressed through your legal department or outside counsel.