Top officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that the Obama Administration’s immigration enforcement policies have resulted in record-breaking alien removals and substantial increases in worksite enforcement. On October 6, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton issued a press release and held a press conference to announce the administration’s accomplishments over the past 20 months.

ICE set a record for removals of illegal aliens in fiscal year 2010, with more than 392,000 removals overall, 195,000 of whom were convicted criminals. Worksite enforcement increased dramatically as well. ICE has conducted 3,200 I-9 audits and employer reviews since January 2009, debarred 225 companies and individuals, and imposed roughly $50 million in financial sanctions. DHS reported that these amounts are more than the entire number of audits and debarments imposed by the Bush Administration. ICE Director Morton clearly indicated in his statement and the corresponding ICE press release that we should expect more of the same going forward, including ICE’s focus on “unscrupulous employers.”

Employers are encouraged to prepare for increased ICE enforcement by taking simple steps to reduce potential immigration compliance liability. Reviewing I-9 policies, training persons responsible for I-9 completion, and conducting a self-audit of I-9 records are but a few of the steps an employer should consider. Completing these steps is likely to reduce potential fines and the chances of other sanctions being imposed should your company be the subject of an ICE review.

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Ogletree Deakins has one of the largest business immigration practices in the United States and provides a wide range of legal services for employers seeking temporary business visas and permanent residence on behalf of foreign national employees.

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