The Illegal Trap When Hiring
by Bill Zalud, Security Magazine
The big and little firms are getting hit hard. The nation’s largest pallet manufacturing company, IFCO Systems North America, just agreed to a nearly $21 million settlement to avoid criminal prosecution for hiring illegal workers.A former Agriprocessors’ human resource staffer recently pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of aiding and abetting a pattern or practice of knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. She faces up to six months in prison. The enterprise is the largest kosher meat-packing operation in the U.S.
David Wortman of Cloudburst Lawn and Sprinkler Systems in Grand Island, Neb., got 30 months in prison on federal charges of hiring illegal immigrant workers.
BRAND NAME ASSAULT
Then there is the Web site, wehirealiens.com, which alleges that certain companies from Pilgrim’s Pride to Swift & Co. are employers of illegal immigrants. The Web site, a media darling, has the ability to blacken many a brand name, whether the allegations are true or false.
Security executives, often working with their human resource colleagues, must now be more diligent concerning employment eligibility verification. The I-9 process has gotten tougher but, at the same time, there are new tools and authorized service providers to make the screening quicker and less hazardous.
Recently the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its regulations governing the types of acceptable identity and employment authorization documents and receipts that employees may present to their employers for completion of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Under this interim rule, employers will no longer be able to accept expired documents to verify employment authorization.
On the Form I-9, a newly-hired employee must attest to being a U.S. citizen or national, a lawful permanent resident or an alien authorized to work in the United States. The employee then must present to his or her employer a document or combination of documents designated by statute and regulation as acceptable for establishing identity and employment authorization. The employer must examine the documents, record the document information on Form I-9 and attest that the documents reasonably appear both to be genuine and to relate to the individual presenting the documents.
An employer who discovers that an employee has been working without authorization should reverify work authorization by allowing the employee another opportunity to present acceptable documentation and complete a new Form I-9. However, security and HR experts advise enterprises that, if they know or should have known that an employee is unauthorized to work in the United States, they may be subject to serious penalties for “knowingly continuing to employ” an unauthorized worker.
DATABASES ARE HELPFUL
There are numerous tools to provide security help.
One of the most used is E-Verify, formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program. It is an Internet-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration and allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.
E-Verify is free and voluntary and continues to get more sophisticated. For example, a photo screening tool feature allows an employer to check the photo on his or her new hire’s Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”) against the 14.8 million images stored in DHS immigration databases.
The states are turning their own screws.
For instance, with recently enacted legislation, South Carolina gradually will begin pushing all employers to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program.
Employers put pertinent employee information into the system, including name, Social Security number and birth date. The system scans millions of records from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security and tells the employer if the new hire is authorized to work or if their paperwork and documents need further review.
CONSIDER DESIGNATED AGENTS
For security leaders and human resource directors seeking outside help with E-Verify, there are designated agents such as U.S. Security Care, Inc., of Blue Bell, Pa., an investigative and protective services firm. According to Gregory Kirsch, background investigations manager, “The E-Verify employment screening process is mandatory for all employers in Arizona and Mississippi and for specific industries in Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Utah and Rhode Island.” In addition, he noted, “there are a significant number of companies who are voluntarily using the system.”Kirsch said that once the information is submitted for verification, it is either positively confirmed or indicates a Tentative Non-Confirmation through one or both of the federal data banks. “At that point, the employee is given a period of eight working days to challenge the Tentative Non-Confirmation with the appropriate agency,” he noted. “If it moves beyond that time frame without the employee taking appropriate action, the employer has the right to withdraw the offer for employment.”Overall, there seems to be less known instances of hiring illegals. There is a debate, however, about why. Some say the enforcement of existing and enacting of new laws has made an impact. Others say it is more the disappointing U.S. economy.
According to activist Jim Gilchrist, a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization, reported that Latino immigrants — legal and illegal — have been hit hard by the nation’s struggling economy, and some are returning home.
Gordon Hanson, an economist at the University of California San Diego, and who specializes in immigration issues, said the jury is still out as to whether immigrants are leaving the U.S. because of the economy. There are other signs: Fewer immigrants are getting caught crossing the border illegally, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, and immigrants are sending less money home. Border Patrol statistics show that 723,825 people were caught in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down about 18 percent from the previous year. Mexico’s central bank reported that remittances by Mexicans living in the U.S. dropped 12 percent in August, down to $1.9 billion, from $2.2 billion in August 2007.
Bill is the Editor of Security Magazine, and he can be reached at (773) 929-6859.