According to a report in the New York Times, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) performed more audits of companies’ I-9 forms in 2012 than in previous years combined. 3,000 audits were performed in 2012 in an effort to uncover illegal employment of immigrants, compared to only 250 audits in FY2007. From 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines increased to $13 million from $1 million, according to ICE records.
Law requires employers to have workers complete an I-9 form which declares them authorized to work in the United Staes. According to an ICE factsheet on I-9 inspections, U.S. law “requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals hired in the United States. … Employers are required by law to maintain for inspection original Forms I-9 for all current employees. In the case of former employees, retention of Forms I-9 are required for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer." An employer only needs to verify that the identifying documents supplied by a worker look real, according to the New York Times piece.
When ICE agents perform an I-9 audit, the objective is to uncover names that do not match Social Security numbers and other sources of identification. Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ an unauthorized worker range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, according to the ICE factsheet. In determining penalty amounts, ICE considers five factors: the size of the business, good faith effort to comply, seriousness of the violation, whether the violation involved unauthorized workers, and history of previous violations.
In 2011 the median fine was $11,000. The state with the most workplaces fined was Texas with 63, followed by New Jersey with 37.