President Trump has only been in office a little over a month, but one thing is clear. He intends to do what he said he would do on the campaign trail, especially in regard to immigration. What does that mean for employers? First, President Trump has said multiple times that he intends to cut down on the “job magnet” and aggressively enforce immigration laws. This priority was right up there with building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, and banning refugees from terrorist countries. The other priorities have garnered all of the news headlines but make no mistake, ICE and other federal agencies are now under the control of a new administration and employers should expect stepped up enforcement of workplace immigration laws.
Starting January 2, 2017 a new updated I-9 form was required, and ICE recently increased fines for document violations related to the I-9 verification process. Clearly, there has been an increased enforcement focus on I-9 compliance and prudent employers should take steps now to get their house in order. Federal law only requires 72 hours’ notice for an I-9 inspection, which leaves little time to conduct an audit and fix mistakes. It is much easier to be proactive and potentially stop small mistakes from being repeated. After all, the same person(s) typically prepare I-9 forms, and if a mistake is being made, it is likely to be repeated until identified in an audit or training session.
Lastly, another issue worth watching is the future of employees working under DACA permits (a/k/a “Dreamers”). These permits were issued under a program unilaterally implemented under President Obama. Although he vowed to end the program when running for office, President Trump has recently been silent as to the fate of this program, and the government is still issuing work permits. There is much uncertainty as to whether the program will be stopped or existing permits will be renewed when they expire (which typically is within two years), which creates practical issues for employers who employ such persons. The main takeaway is that employers should already have a tickler system to re-verify employees with expiring work eligibility and should consider providing extra notice to DACA holders so that all parties are aware of the deadlines and potential political changes that could affect employment eligibility.