Form I-9 Compliance: Here’s How to Be Prepared

business woman filing out a form

Employers must stay on top of worksite immigration compliance to avoid serious consequences for their companies, as well as their workers. A Form I-9 must be completed by employers and employees for anyone hired to work in the U.S. These forms verify the identities of workers and ensure they are authorized for employment in the U.S.

Continued I-9 Audits on the Horizon

Under the Trump administration, there has been a significant uptick in worksite investigations; a trend that is expected to continue throughout 2019. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports that in a two-phased operation occurring between the 29th of January and 30th of March and from the 16th of July to the 20th of July in 2018, ICE served audit notices to 5,278 businesses across the U.S. ICE can audit employers’ records at any time to evaluate their compliance. Violations could result in criminal or civil penalties, including fines.

Ensure Accuracy and Thoroughness of I-9 Forms

Accuracy is essential for I-9 forms as ICE audits evaluate their correctness. New hires, or a preparer or translator on their behalf, complete the first section of Form I-9; providing their names, addresses, and birthdates, and indicating their citizenship or residency status. Employers should make certain all the information is provided in this section, including the maiden names of any married workers, and that employees have signed and dated the document. The second section of I-9 forms is completed by employers and should include workers’ employment authorization forms, information about the company, and employees’ hire or start-of-employment dates.

Maintain Valid Documentation

To ensure their compliance with worksite immigration policies, employers must maintain workers’ I-9 forms. Upon getting hired, employees must provide their employers with documentation establishing their identity and authorization to work. They may provide one document from List A of the lists of acceptable documents or one selection from List B and another from List C.

When conducting an audit, ICE will ask to see the I-9 forms. It may be helpful for employers to store all their worksite immigration records together, instead of in workers’ individual personnel files, so they are easily accessible. They should also remove records as they are no longer needed. Employers need only keep the records of former workers for one year after their separation dates or three years from their hire dates.

When an ICE Agent Knocks on Your Door in Chicago

police officer, chicago immigration lawyer

Although Trump’s threats of a mass roundup of undocumented immigrants have failed to materialize, advocacy groups are urging people who may be targeted by ICE to be prepared in case an immigration agent knocks on their door. Trump originally threatened that ICE would conduct mass raids and arrests of undocumented immigrants in June, but he agreed to postpone the action for a couple of weeks to allow Congress more time to reach an agreement on immigration reform. He subsequently announced that the raids would occur in early July, but the date came and went without mass arrests. The threats prompted cities across the U.S., including Chicago, to post emergency numbers and to engage in educational campaigns so immigrants would know their rights.

What to Do if ICE Arrives

Undocumented immigrants should know their rights if ICE agents show up at their homes. People should not open their doors and should instead ask if the agents have a warrant from inside of their homes. If the agents say they do, the immigrants should ask them to slip it under the door instead of opening it. A warrant should have the immigrant’s name and address and should have a judge’s signature. A removal order is not the same as an arrest warrant and should not prompt a person to open the door. People also are not required to answer any questions they are asked. If agents have arrest warrants, only the people who are named in them should step outside. If they have a search warrant, the people will have to allow them to search their homes.

If ICE agents try to force their way inside of a home, people should announce loudly that they do not consent to the entry. They should then ask for a Chicago immigration lawyer. People who are arrested should exercise their rights to remain silent. They should not sign anything or provide the agents with their identification. They also should not agree to be fingerprinted.

If ICE agents approach someone in public, the person should ask if he or she is under arrest. If an arrest is not occurring, the person can leave. A person who is arrested should ask for an attorney and has the right to request bail. Finally, people should document the raid by taking pictures or video. It is possible to fight against removal proceedings.

Trump’s Merit-Based Immigration Proposal

An American Flag, Immigration Lawyer

Trump’s merit-based immigration plan would favor highly-skilled workers over people with family ties to the United States. However, the program would end work permits for spouses of highly skilled workers. It is unlikely that the workers would choose to live and work in the U.S. if they could not bring their spouses and children. The proposal has gained little traction and is facing opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

What Trump’s Proposal Would Do

The Trump Administration’s latest immigration proposal would end family-based immigration visas for the parents, adult children, and siblings of U.S. citizens. It would also end family-based immigration for the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. The proposal would eliminate the diversity lottery and would substantially reduce the number of visas that are available to refugees each year. The total number of visas would remain unchanged at 1.1 million per year. By removing these other visa programs, the U.S. would add more visas for highly-skilled workers. However, the spouses of the highly skilled workers would no longer be eligible for work visas, making it unlikely that many of these workers would choose to come to the U.S. under the H-1B visa program.

If Trump’s proposal passed, it would change the way people are able to immigrate to the U.S. While the Trump Administration touts the proposal as attracting more highly educated and skilled workers to the U.S., the proposal would be likelier to harm technology companies and other industries that rely on highly skilled foreign workers to fill their open positions. Highly skilled foreign workers can choose to go to other countries that have more generous visa programs and that allow their spouses to live and work in their countries. For example, more highly skilled workers are now choosing to go to Canada instead of the U.S. because there are fewer restrictions there.

The proposed plan would also do nothing to help Dreamers and does not mention the DACA program.

The proposal met with opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. While it is unlikely to pass, it demonstrates the direction that the administration would like to go in terms of immigration reform.

Rescuing DACA

gavel with America flag, immigration lawyer

A recent federal court ruling found that Trump’s attempt to end DACA violates federal law. The ruling was the latest one in the federal court system that was in favor of the program. Currently, several federal courts are handling cases in which people have sued the Trump administration over attempts to end the DACA program. The cases may ultimately be heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020.

What Is DACA?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was instituted by former President Barack Obama. DACA allows people who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the U.S. and work. It does not provide a pathway to citizenship, but it protects people who qualify from deportation and removal proceedings as long as they work or attend college and avoid committing criminal offenses. There are more than 800,000 DACA recipients and a total of 1.3 million people who are eligible for the program.

Trump’s Actions on DACA

After Trump took office, he began moving to end DACA. In Sept. 2017, the administration announced that DACA would end and gave Congress a six-month window to come up with a legislative fix. Members of Congress came up with a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would have saved DACA, but Trump rejected it after he initially said that he would sign it. This left hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients in fear of losing their status in March 2017. Multiple plaintiffs across the U.S. sued the administration in federal court, and the Ninth Circuit issued a nationwide injunction against ending DACA. Other courts are still contending with other lawsuits against the administration over the end of the program.

Recent Decision

The most recent decision came out of the Fourth Circuit. The court ruled that the Trump Administration’s moves to end DACA were arbitrary and capricious and in violation of federal law. They ruled that the Trump Administration did not adequately explain why it was ending the program and that hundreds of thousands of young people have structured their lives in reliance on the program.

The Supreme Court may take up the cases against Trump over DACA. The court may hear the cases in 2020 during the middle of the next election.

Here’s What New H-1B Regulations Are Doing to the US Economy

visa stamp, Chicago immigration lawyer

Changes made to the H-1B program are aimed at protecting jobs for American workers but may instead have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant, employment-based visa for highly educated workers in specialty occupations. In response to the Trump administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services modified the existing immigration regulations for these skilled workers, prioritizing petitioners with graduate degrees.

Changes to the H-1B Visa Program

Under the newly implemented modifications to the H-1B visa program, the order by which petitions are selected is reversed. Therefore, all petitions will initially count toward the projected number for reaching the H-1B cap. Once enough petitions are selected, USCIS will select petitions towards the advanced degree exemption. Previously, workers holding advanced degrees were selected before the cap was reached. The changes also establish an electronic registration requirement, which has been suspended for the 2020 cap season.

Changes Projected to Aid Employers and Workers

According to USCIS, these modifications are meant to benefit employers and skilled foreign workers seeking employment in the U.S., as well as American-born workers. Under the changes, American workers would not lose out on jobs to foreign workers who are willing to work for less and employers hiring workers with advanced degrees would be more likely to have their visa petitions granted. The changes will also help streamline the process and reduce the costs to employers.

Amendments Meant to Benefit U.S. Workers May Tear at the Economy

At present, the U.S. workforce does not have enough highly skilled workers to fill the need, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields. By making it more difficult for qualified workers with experience training rather than education to obtain work visas, these workers may instead opt to find employment with companies outside of the U.S., potentially adding to the worker shortage and increasing the competition for American-held businesses.

Concerns that foreign-born workers who are willing to work for less are taking jobs from American-born workers are ill-founded. Having H1-B workers in the labor force adds jobs and, since on average they make more than their U.S.-born colleagues, it also increases wages across the board. A study conducted by New American Economy found that cities in which employers largely lost out on H-1B visa lotteries had significantly less wage growth and job creation for American-born workers in the years following.