The Board of Immigration Appeals rules this week that a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification form) is admissible in immigration proceedings as evidence to establish removability. The case is Matter of Bett, 26 I&N Dec. 437 (BIA 2014). This decision may have widespread implications for persons seeking immigration benefits, as well as for persons seeking relief from removal. The issue has been coming up increasingly at local U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services field offices.
The I-9 Form is used to verify a person’s work authorization. It is completed at time of hire by new employees. The new employee must state their status in the United States. The form offers an opportunity to declare that a person is a U.S. citizen. Of course, this box gets checked sometimes by persons who are not U.S. citizens. This can be done intentionally or not intentionally, and may also be completed later by an employer. If a person makes a false claim to U.S. citizenship, they are inadmissible to the United States. Thus, if an I-9 is presented in removal proceedings, the Immigration Judge may now try to determine whether the form holds a false claim to citizenship.
The Court concurred with the 8th Ciricuit’s decision in Downs v. Holder, 758 F.3d 994 (8th Cir. 2014), and said the decision is binding against the Respondent Betts. The 8th Circuit concluded that I-9s are admissible in proceedings to enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act.
We have heard of reports of USCIS officers contacting employers to request copies of I-9s, to help them with the adjudication of applications for benefits. With this case, there is an increased chance that DHS attorneys and officers will seek to review I-9s in relation to fulfilling their duties under the Immigration and Nationality Act.