Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an interim final rule that will increase fines on U.S. employers for violations of federal immigration law. The rule has the potential to substantially increase penalties for employing unauthorized workers, violating Form I-9 paperwork rules, and engaging in immigration-related unfair employment practices. These violations are unlawful under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and the new rule is an inflation adjustment required by budget legislation that was signed into law last November. The rule will go into effect on August 1, 2016 and will apply to violations that took place after November 2, 2015. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor issued an interim final rule to adjust the amounts of civil penalties in connection with the employment of temporary non-immigrant workers under the H-2B program.
The new fines set out by the DOJ’s new rule are quite substantial and increases penalties anywhere from 35% to 96% depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Whereas before, employing a single unauthorized worker resulted in a fine ranging from $375 – $3,200 for a first offense, the new rule adjusts the range to $539 – $4,313. The largest increase as a result of this new rule, raises the penalty for multiple violations to a range of $6,469 – $21,563 per violation, up from the prior range of $4,300 – $16,000. Moreover, Form I-9 paperwork violations will nearly double under the new rule. The prior fine range of $110 – $1,100 per violation will increase to $216 – $2,156 per violation. Finally, for unfair immigration-related employment practices, the maximum penalty increases from $3,200 – $3,563 per person discriminated against.