In a press release issued on Februrary 12, ICE reported that Koch Foods of Cincinnati LLC paid a $536,046 fine as a result of a worksite enforcement investigation conducted by ICE in 2007. The Notice of Intent to Fine was issued on February 8, 2010 and quickly paid on February 9, 2010. In addition to paying the fine, ICE reports that the company has also begun using E-verify and implemented other changes to its overall immigration compliance system.
The enforcement action began in 2007 with a tip from a “concerned citizen” who reported that there were undocumented workers on site. ICE began an investigation which led to a raid of Koch’s Fairfield, Ohio, processing facility and the arrest of 161 undocumented workers in August 2007. ICE also executed a search warrant at Koch’s corporate offices in Chicago seizing relevant documents.
In announcing this fine, ICE reminded employers that they have implemented a new, comprehensive strategy to reduce the demand for unauthorized employment by focusing their resources on auditing and investigating employers who are suspected of cultivating and hiring undocumented workers. In 2009 ICE issued over 1600 I-9 audit notices, a dramatic increase from past years.
The large amount of the administrative fine is a stark reminder to employers of the severe consequences that may follow from incomplete or nonexistent I-9 recordkeeping. Employers should audit their I-9s and review immigration compliance programs and policies on a regular basis. And while use of E-verify is not a safe-harbor from ICE invesigation, enforcement or fines, it will help employers in ensuring that their employees are authorized to work in the United States.