Declaring it is out "to  target the root cause of illegal immigration," the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit are scurrying about to inspect companies’ 1-9 employment verification records to make sure no illegal immigrants are on the payroll.

ICE hit the jackpot recently when it inspected Houston’s IFCO Systems, the nation’s largest manufacturer of pallets. Inspectors found 1,000 employees who were not authorized to work in the U.S., and IFCO was hit with a $20.7 million fine.

This approach is the reversal of the Bush-era ICE methodology when companies were raided and the illegal workers rounded up and sent off for deportation hearings. Now it’s the employers who are being targeted and fined.

“Employment is the primary driving force behind illegal immigration,” a DHS statement said. “By working with employers to ensure a legal workplace, ICE is able to stem the tide of those who cross our borders illegally or unlawfully remain in our country to work.”

The DHS statement said ICE would base upcoming investigations on tips from the public, reports from current and former employees and referrals from other law enforcement agencies. “ICE does not randomly target employers,” the statement said. “All investigations and arrests are based on specific intelligence obtained from a variety of sources.”

Though ICE is not directly raiding workforces, it reaffirmed its commitment to prosecuting and eventually deporting those who are found to be here illegally.

Employers, the rules and form for verifying your employees’ eligibility to work in the United States have both changed. Stay current–and in legal compliance–by picking up a copy of Personnel Concepts’ I-9 Compliance Kit.