Donald Trump gained much of his political support by vowing to crack down on illegal immigration. Many people may not be aware, however, that laws that have been on the books for years already impose significant penalties on employers for hiring illegal immigrants. These penalties can include thousands of dollars of fines and even jail time. Therefore, it is important that employers ensure that they are not hiring employees who cannot work legally in the United States, and comply with all federal laws required to verify an employee’s legal status.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act makes it illegal to knowingly hire an illegal immigrant or to hire anyone without complying with the Act’s employment verification requirements. It requires employers to review certain documents to verify an employee’s legal status prior to the hiring. The employer and employee must complete a Form I-9. This requires an employee to produce documents that will attest to the employee’s identity and work eligibility. A passport, for example, is one of the documents that will do this. The employee must provide the actual document—he or she cannot provide a photocopy. Employers must retain the I-9 Form for three years after hiring the employee.
If an employer knowingly hires an illegal immigrant, the employer will face fines of $250 to $2,000 for each illegal immigrant hired. If the employer is caught a second time knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, it will face fines of $2,000 to $5,000 for each illegal immigrant hired, and fines of $3,000 to $10,000 for each illegal immigrant hired after that. Employers who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants could face up to six months in jail.
Some states, like Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, require employers to use the e-verify system when hiring employees. Illinois is not among these states. E-verify is an online system that provides information about an employee’s employment eligibility. Moreover, all employers in certain industries or who engage in certain types of business, like those receiving federal contracts, must use the e-verify system.