Immigration Issues Employers Face in 2019

This summer, Gasparian Spivey opened a new office in Lafayette (110 Travis St., Suite. 114, 337-310-0799) so that we now have immigration law offices in New Orleans and Lafayette. This will make it easier for us to serve more of Louisiana. On July 26, Kathleen and Leah went to Lafayette to take part in The H-Programs Compliance Assistance Event for Louisiana Employers with representatives from the Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE in particular spoke about I-9 compliance issues and its investigations of employers; the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division shared its thoughts about meeting the H2A and H2B requirements. 

The big picture takeaway is one that immigration lawyers stress, that the biggest violations are also the easiest to avoid by keeping better records. Clean records are often an employer’s best defense to allegations of wrongdoing, but because nobody loves keeping records, they often trip employers up. It may take a little focus and determination to put strong record keeping systems in process, but the effort pays off for employers, particularly in the I-9 context and in wage and hour issues.

Other takeaways:  

  • Agencies communicate with each other and read the paper. If an employer runs afoul of one agency, other agencies are more likely to take a look as well. Lack of records in one area of compliance frequently indicate other deficiencies.   
  • Most record violations have nothing to do with intent or what the employer meant to do. This is one area of immigration law where matters are black and white. You have the necessary records or you don’t.
  • Employers should assume that if they hear that others in their industry have been audited, one may be coming for them as well. Dealing with this situation is a specialty of ours. GSI regularly advises employers on I-9 obligations, I-9 audits, how to respond to an I-9 notice of inspection, and overall immigration compliance.
  • I-9 enforcement increased first under the Obama administration and has accelerated even more under the current administration. No one gave concrete numbers, but indications are that the goal of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to increase I-9 enforcement by 400 percent over the next year with incremental increases after that.

The current administration has worked to change the nature of immigration to the U.S. on so many fronts that it’s easy to overlook a challenge that employers have faced for years—how to make sure that they remain in compliance with the relevant agencies. Companies that have concerns about their vulnerability should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who can help them evaluate their records and plan a response. 

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