One of the nation’s largest community colleges is in legal trouble after allegations that Houston Community College violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The college recently entered into a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to resolve the allegations. The details of the violations are related to the way that HCC completed Form I-9s when hiring non-U.S. citizens. The Department of Justice will be checking other colleges nationwide to verify that these practices are not occurring frequently. It is unclear as to whether this scrutiny has spread to the immigration practices of colleges and universities in St. Louis.
The Department of Justice alleged that HCC required non-U.S. citizens who were applying for a job to produce specific work authorization papers that they did not require from U.S. citizens. The college will be required to pay $83,600 in civil penalties and $20,000 to a back pay fund to compensate the victims it has employed. Additionally, HCC will be on probation for two years which will include monitoring its employment eligibility practices and its training requirements.
Over the past several years, the Department of Homeland Security has dramatically increased the number of I-9 audits and the fines for technical and substantive violations. Because of spending cuts and loose implementation efforts, enforcement of INA’s anti-discrimination provisions have been ignored. Instead, the focus was on the employers’ obligations to turn away hires looking for a job without any documentation and deceptively completing the Form I-9. The HCC case represents a recent trend of enforcement of the anti-discrimination provisions. Stricter regulations, enforcements and more frequent audits will be taking place to protect non-citizen employees from being unduly targeted. The I-9 compliance program is complicated and well-meaning employers can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate these complex laws and regulations.
If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.