Consequences of hiring undocumented or illegal immigrants can often be quite severe for business owners. These may include:
- Criminal or civil fines
- Loss or suspension of business licenses
- Damage to business reputation
- Hiring or replacing of various management personnel
In some states, newer immigration laws may result in some businesses losing their operating license if they are found to be hiring undocumented immigrants. Also, the state may require the business to change their hiring practices and policies so that they conform to immigration laws.
Often times, legal penalties for hiring illegal immigrants may be harsher if the business owner or supervisor knew that they were hiring undocumented immigrants. This may even result in other legal claims, such as harboring an illegal immigrant, or conspiracy to defraud government officials.
Penalties may be lessened if the business owner did not know that one of their employees was actually not certified to work in the U.S., or did not have a valid work permit. That is, if they exercised their reasonable judgment and made a good faith effort to check the person’s documents, they may be excused from a violation in some cases. This can happen for instance if the employee used fake documents or I.D.’s when applying for the job.
However, newer technologies and policies such as the E-Verify system use computer databases and fingerprints to verify immigration status in terms of employment. Thus, it is much more difficult defraud immigration officials than in previous years.
Some steps that business owners can take in order to prevent immigration hiring violations may include:
- Completing thorough checks of employee credentials.
- Studying immigration and employment documents, so you can spot fakes easier.
- Conforming with the various immigration hiring policies, especially the computerized E-Verify requirements.
- Reporting any suspicious activity immediately—this will help you protect yourself and your business from violations.
- Hiring a lawyer if you are unsure of a certain applicant or document.
Immigration laws and policies can often be subject to change over time. Also, each state may have drastically different immigration laws compared to another state. You may wish to hire a immigration lawyer if you need clarification or legal assistance with an immigration or employment issue. Your attorney can inform you of how to proceed, and can represent you if you need to file a claim in court.