Workforce: Immigrants Play Key Role In Utility Construction

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | March 2009 Vol. 64 No. 3

One way ICE can build a "pattern and practice" criminal charge against a company is to look at the firm's immigration compliance at multiple locations. Even if the home office is very careful in its hiring practices, if other locations are not, a ‘pattern and practice’ charge can result. Consider centralizing immigration compliance procedures and for large employers, automating the process. Use regular, unannounced self audits of hiring practices, to ensure that every location is following the law, and completing a Form I 9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) on every new hire within 3 days. These audits can turn up surprising conduct which, if discovered and corrected timely, can mitigate liability in the event of a government investigation.

“Occasionally use an outside, objective auditor.

“Have a strong, clear protocol for responding to Social Security ‘mismatch’ letters. Failure to respond to such letters is one of the telltale signs ICE looks for in deciding whether to investigate an employer. Consider enrolling in the DHS E Verify system to check Social Security numbers and the names of new hires against the Social Security database. E Verify will not detect identity fraud, but you will at least know whether there may be a problem with a new hire, and can take steps to come within the ‘safe harbor’ to avoid liability for constructive knowledge that an employee is unauthorized. Be aware of what the 'safe harbor' procedure is, and follow it for all new hires.

“Be aware that as of Jan.15, 2009, all federal contractors whose contract is greater than $100,000, and all subcontractors on federal contracts for construction or services exceeding $3,000 will be required to enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of contract award and apply it to all existing employees who will work on the contract, and to all new employees hired during the course of the contract. Find out if your recruiters are of the same ethnic group as a large percentage of your hires, or from the same area of origin – ICE can find this out, and considers it a potential sign of lax immigration compliance. Find out first and ensure that hiring practices comply with immigration and labor laws.”

Screening applicants