Under federal law, it is illegal for any employer to engage with illegal immigrants in the following manner:
- Hiring illegal immigrants
- Recruiting illegal immigrants
- Referring illegal immigrants for work and receiving a fee
This also includes hiring contractors who use illegal immigrants. There are criminal and civil penalties associated with this conduct.
It is also illegal for employers to not verify work authorization. Three days after an employee is hired, employers should correctly complete an I-9. Failing to do so will subject employers to criminal and civil punishment.
Hiring illegal immigrants can lead to many severe penalties, such as:
- Criminal and civil fines
- Loss of business licenses
Most fines are broken down to the following:
- First offenders can be fined $250-$2,000 per illegal employee.
- For a second offense, the fine is $2,000-$5,000 per illegal employee.
- Three or more offenses can cost an employer $3000-$10,000 per illegal employee. A pattern of knowingly employing illegal immigrants can mean extra fines and up to six months in jail for an employer.
This does not include “harboring” illegal immigrants, or employing ten or more illegal immigrants in one year. Harboring an illegal immigrant can lead to ten years of prison time.
Additionally, employers should be aware of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Employers can be sued under the act for hiring illegal immigrants, and can face large settlement deals.
The lawfully documented workers of the Zirkle Fruit Company recently settled a class action lawsuit brought under RICO. The suit alleged that their employer knowingly hired undocumented workers, driving down their wages.
State laws may also have different provisions. For instance, California immigration laws may differ from those in other states or areas.
Illegal immigrants who seek employment often engage in identity theft in order to work in the United States. Employers are required to make a good faith effort to make sure that their employees are legally permitted to work in the country. Good faith efforts include checking social security numbers and making sure the numbers are valid.
Yes. Employment laws can be difficult to understand, particularly when dealing with illegal immigrants. Consult an employment attorney immediately if you have questions about hiring new employees.