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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released its fiscal year 2018 numbers, showing a staggering increase in its worksite investigations, I-9 audits and worksite-related arrests.  To put this increased enforcement into perspective, consider some of these numbers:

  • In FY18, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) opened 6,848 worksite investigations compared to 1,691 in FY17.

  • In FY18 HSI initiated 5,981 I-9 audits compared to 1,360 in FY 17.

  • In FY18 HSI made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 139 and 172 in FY17, respectively.

  • All of the above categories surged by 300 to 750 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Based on the current administration’s stance on border control and undocumented workers, it is no surprise that HSI special agents and auditors have ramped up their efforts from previous years to investigate and enforce employers and their worksites to identify use of illegal workforces.  HSI notes its increased enforcement is to help eliminate the competitive edge that employers who use an undocumented workforce may have over other employers who follow the law.  It is also part of its commitment to uphold the laws that govern worksite enforcement and that help protect jobs for U.S. citizens, reduce the incentive of illegal migration and help strengthen public safety and natural security.


HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law along with the use of I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law.  As you may have read or heard about in the news, there have been some high-profile enforcement actions in 2018, resulting in arrests of hundreds of individuals working illegally. Some of the arrests were the employers of those worksites – so it appears HSI’s strategy is working.


While HSI continues to utilize site and document inspections and leverage other government agencies to identify possible workforce violations by employers, there are a number of steps that employers can take to ensure a positive outcome if HSI comes to audit or investigate the workplace.  Employers should ensure they have an I-9 form for each and every employee and confirm the identity and work eligibility of those employees through use of the E-Verify system.  Confirming compliance with I-9 forms before HSI comes knocking is key, so having a third-party come in to do an I-9 audit to identify any issues and discuss ways to improve on those issues going forward is a good idea.  Staying informed as to any new tips or developments ICE communicates to the public is also important.  If you are informed and are aware of what other employers have been fined for, you can learn from those mistakes and ensure your business will not run into the same issue.  ICE also provides ongoing outreach programs for employers in order to promote compliance and accountability, including through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program, which assists employers to develop a more secure and stable workforce.

If your business would like an I-9 audit completed or if you have any other questions regarding information addressed in this tip, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at  You can also find additional information and tips for your company and HR professionals at

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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Kevin M. Mosher

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