Here’s hoping your I-9 paperwork is in order. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently launched another series of “silent raids,” going after 1,000 companies suspected of hiring and employing undocumented or illegal workers.

Companies that receive a notice from ICE are required to submit a full audit of their I-9 paperwork.

The audits are the largest since July 2009 (though certainly not the first since then) and were sent out on Sept. 30, just before the end of the fiscal year (and the government shutdown).

The industries primarily targeted: food service and high-tech manufacturing companies.

And here’s the kicker: Even if ICE discovers that all of your workers are aboveboard, you can still get fined for documentation and clerical errors like listing incorrect employee start dates.

I-9 audits through the roof

The “silent raids” are all in line with ICE’s very recent increase in activity: In 2004, the feds conducted just three audits. By 2008, that number was up to 500, and by 2012, it had exploded to 3,004 — an increase of 100,000%.

In fact, the agency has conducted about 10,000 audits in the last four years — and imposed over $100 million in fines to companies across the U.S.

Foley & Llardner LLP attorney Roy J. Barquet had this takeaway for HR pros on the Labor & Employment Law Perspectives blog:

Given the attention the government is dedicating to Form I-9 requirements, now might be a good time to audit your organization’s documentation practices and seek guidance on any areas of uncertainty.

An additional note: In case you missed it a few months back, firms are required to use the new I-9 form moving forward.

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