Form I-9 is an employment form that is required by all employers and employees. When a new employee is hired, the employer is expected to fill out an I-9 form and file it away so that it is available in the event of an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) audit. This type of audit requires an employer to hand over all I-9 forms over to the USCIS authorities for inspection. The USCIS then confirms that the employer has indeed filled out I-9 forms correctly for all employees and has only hired legal workers. If the employer cannot provide proof that everyone working at the site is authorized to work in the US, the employer can face charges and fines. The lack of proper I-9 documentation can also lead to fines. The aim of the I-9 Form is to ensure that employers check and confirm employment authorization for every new employee so that only those who are legally allowed to work in the US do so.
According to some experts, employers hiring unauthorized employees is a serious problem. Since these employees cannot legally work in the US, they may be forced to accept lower wages than minimum wage and may not be protected by the same labor laws and safety laws as other employees. In addition, some experts feel that hiring undocumented workers lowers wages for all workers and creates unsafe workplaces. The aim of Form I-9 is to prevent this from happening and ensures that employers cannot plead ignorance when caught hiring unauthorized workers. However, some experts argue that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement audits and I-9 forms are ineffective when stopping unauthorized employment.
For example, recently some locations of Sushi Zushi were closed after close to 100 employees left the franchise before a USCIS audit. The chain is only now reopening some locations, including a location in Austin and a location in Dallas. Many of the some 100 employees who left did so because they feared deportation. According to one source, who spoke to reporters, some of the Sushi Zushi employees who left did so because the information on their I-9 was missing or because some of the information did not match information in government databases. According to Sushi Zushi, the company is cooperating with the ICE and with employees to resolve the issue. So far, it has not been announced whether Sushi Zushi will face any fines or charges as a result of the situation. The company continues to seek new staff to replace the employees who left.