By Calvin Gower, Trüpp.

It’s no secret that the current administration has cracked down on immigration enforcement and the 2018 numbers reflect that. So, what should employers expect over the course of 2019? More specifically, what legal trends will have a direct impact on your workforce? This article will discuss pending decisions that will affect employers and highlight the stepped-up pace of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the coming year.

Pending Policy Changes

H-1B Visa employment. Potential changes would revise the definition of employment and specialty occupations. This would affect the way terms are interpreted, making a more restrictive process that results in increased difficulty for workers to qualify.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The decision of whether to end DACA is pending in three federal appeals courts and is currently at a standstill. Progress on this decision isn’t expected until the second half of the year but limited measures are a possibility; such as providing legal status for DACA beneficiaries in exchange for border security funding.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients. Courts will decide on challenges to the administration’s decision to end TPS for several countries, including El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Certain industries such as construction, restaurant, food services, and landscaping would be hit the hardest.

What to Expect From ICE

The focus of ICE is straightforward and looking at 2018 numbers show employers exactly what to expect moving forward. Here’s a quick rundown of last year:

  • Worksite investigations rose more than 300 percent with a 10-year high of I-9 audits conducted and criminal charges filed.
  • Workforce arrests fall into two main categories: criminal (violations such as identity fraud) and administrative (violations such as being in the country without authorization).

The agency is in the process of making additional hires of auditors and is planning an approach of more direct outreach to employers. They are also fine-tuning their overall process by adopting new technology to speed up audits and a centralized auditing center to streamline the process. It’s safe to say, we can expect more audits and more crackdowns on employers with penalties. Employers should double down on their I9 compliance and understand how these changes could affect their team.