The hot political debate over immigration reform may have cooled some since last year, but employers need to remain vigilant. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently announced higher civil fines against employers who violate federal immigration laws.
The announcement in late February was made in a joint briefing with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff about newly enacted border security reforms put in place by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Under the new rule, which was approved by Attorney General Mukasey and Secretary Chertoff, civil fines will increase 25%, or by as much as $5,000. According to a DOJ press release, the new rule takes effect on March 27, 2008, and will be published in the Federal Register in the near future.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, employers who violate employment eligibility requirements are subject to civil monetary penalties. Employers may be fined under the Act for knowingly employing unauthorized aliens or for other violations, including failure to comply with the requirements relating to employment eligibility verification forms, wrongful discrimination against job applicants or employees on the basis of nationality or citizenship, and immigration-related document fraud.
Of more concern to employers is the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has dramatically increased the amounts of criminal fines and forfeiture over previous years of administrative fines alone. ICE reports that during the three quarters of FY 2007 alone, ICE has obtained criminal fines, restitutions, and civil judgments in excess of $30 million.