Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ICE Audits Another Hotel in Utah

According to the Utah News, The Grand America Hotel will terminate workers as a result of Department of Homeland Security audit that began last October.  It is estimated that 120 of the hotel's 600 workers will be terminated.

When U.S. Immigration and Customs Encforcement (ICE) audits an employer, they typically provide the employer with a list of suspect documents afterward.  This list essentially indicates the employees that appear to have provided fraudulent documents to the employer when completing the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification form at their time of hire.  The employer must then go to the employees listed and request that they provide different documents acceptable for the Form I-9 (see Lists of Acceptable Documents). 

If the employees fail to provide acceptable documents, then they must be terminated.  This is exactly what has happened with Chipotle Mexican Grill and other high profile employers across the country. Utah News reports:  Bruce Fery, president of The Grand America Hotel, released a statement confirming DHS instructions to not keep anyone employed who was unable to prove a legal right to work in the United States.

There is some speculation that the hotel was targeted because they were not yet signed up for E-Verify as mandated by Utah state law.  This has not been confirmed, but the Utah Rattler reports:

Whatever the case may be, the audit of a large, non-compliant enterprise raises some interesting prospects:
1. Is ICE looking at large companies that aren’t in compliance with Utah’s 2010 E-Verify law?
While ICE will not enforce Utah’s law, looking for non-compliant companies in related laws is a legitimate means of targeting inspections and manpower.
2. Did other competitors file complaints with ICE?
Other hotels using E-Verify can see who is or is not signed up for the system and may have tipped off ICE due to the  illegitimate competitive advantage gained by their non-compliant colleague:
Lori Haley, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, released a statement saying her agency has a responsibility to curb businesses’ appetite for undocumented immigrant labor but wouldn’t confirm the agency did an audit.
“Responsible employers who seek to conduct their business lawfully are put at an unfair disadvantage as they try to compete with unscrupulous businesses,” Haley said in the statement. “Such businesses gain a competitive edge by paying illegal alien workers low wages or otherwise exploiting them. These inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws.”
If, however, ICE is using a list of companies in violation of the 2010 law, it will be interesting to see who else is paid a visit, including some of Utah’s dairy farmers, home builders, and other businesses who aligned themselves with amnesty programs (such as HB116) and intimated that they hire “undocumented workers”.
Whether Utah employers are being targeted or not, it is clear that ICE is auditing more and more employers.  The best way to protect yourself and your organization from a similar audit is to have a 3rd party expert auditor review your I-9s now, so you can find out what issues you may have.  Then you can form a plan to deal with the issues BEFORE you are audited by ICE. 

Form I-9 Compliance, LLC has expert auditors that can help you.  Call us at 949-640-4949 to find out which audit service can help you.

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