Tips On How To Navigate An Ice Audit
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has quadrupled its worksite investigations in a single year, and the agency is on track to break records again this year, leaving many companies wondering how to successfully navigate an ICE audit. While the primary focus is on industries that either (1) relate to the nation’s critical infrastructure or (2) have traditionally exploited illegal workers, a single anonymous tip through the agency’s website is enough to send agents to the door. This atmosphere makes an ICE audit a real possibility for any employer in the country, and it’s critical to have a plan before auditors show up. That means now.
Here Is The Plan If You Are Being Audited
Even if no wrongdoing is discovered during an ICE audit, the process causes stress, costs money and takes concentration away from the business at hand. Even a good faith mistake can result in fines and penalties that can damage a company’s reputation, morale and profitability. The risk is simply too high to ignore, and there are steps a business can take to soften the disruption and solve problems before it’s too late. There are three stages in navigating an ICE audit: Reassess, Prepare, Be Polite Let’s take a look at each.
The first step in dealing with an ICE audit starts today and includes reevaluating Employment Eligibility form (I-9) processes. A single typo made by a long-gone HR intern on a form that’s been sitting untouched in a filing cabinet for years can cost the business money. With this thought alone, reviewing I-9 procedures, correcting all mistakes in the proper way (lots of companies get into trouble with shortcuts here) and structuring an airtight system can protect the business.
Many companies begin this process with a self-audit, either through an in-house committee or through an outside auditor. A well-performed self-audit will uncover any patterns that need to be addressed with additional targeted training or going back through to correct mistakes. Any issues revealed by a self-audit should be immediately resolved to demonstrate good faith should ICE auditors ever appear. A self-audit must be done with care to avoid any appearance of discrimination.
One of the simplest ways to discover past issues and safeguard the future at the same time is to convert to an I-9 software system. Lookout Services’ program, for example, is designed by immigration attorneys to streamline the process and avoid costly mistakes. Conversion from the old system to the new will uncover errors that may be corrected before memorializing them for the future. It will also deliver a new procedure that has been thoughtfully constructed as an intuitive, simple way to handle I-9s that minimizes opportunity for error and complies with existing and changing laws and regulations. An added bonus is Lookout’s commitment to helping with future self-audits, as well as actual ICE audits. Using such highly regarded software to handle I-9 procedures demonstrates good faith in I-9 compliance to federal officials, and Lookout’s experienced teams can generate data in a way that auditors appreciate.
Once the existing files are found to be in good standing and procedures are going forward are as foolproof as can be, there is more to consider. An ICE audit can happen at any time and for a variety of reasons. So be prepared.
Designate a representative who will be the conduit between the company and ICE and put this person in a room with an experienced employment attorney. Arm this employee with a full understanding of the company’s rights and responsibilities during an ICE audit, and make sure that everyone knows that this person is the only one who may speak to federal agents, should they appear. A receptionist without training can unwittingly waive the company’s rights or consent to a search, and this is a situation that should be avoided.
When the day of the audit arrives, the designated representative will have all of the answers for both the executives and the feds and keep everyone calm. Since the company has already taken the steps to tighten up procedures and all I-9 forms have been reviewed and any errors corrected, don’t worry. The company representative knows what to say to the agents and is in touch with the attorney, and Lookout is generating the reports ICE seeks, so there is no reason to panic. Every employee should be polite to the agents and let them get on with their work.
When determining how to successfully navigate an ICE audit, following the steps listed above should keep the business I-9 compliant and help put everyone at ease.