Lessons Learned While Negotiating a Settlement of ICE Fines

Having the unfortunate experience of negotiating settlements of fines imposed by ICE following an inspection, I’ve experienced a few things. Some of the things I’ve learned are similar to others’ experiences. And some perhaps not, which I share below:

  • Following an inspection but prior to the issuance of a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF), consider reaching out to your local ICE attorney. You can then determine if negotiations may occur pre-NIF.  My most recent negotiation involved a pre-NIF negotiation. ICE told told me that the ICE attorney had more flexibility to negotiate prior to the issuance of the NIF.  Based on my experience, this seems logical, and I believe it to be true.  I would negotiate pre-NIF again given the opportunity.
  • ICE may reduce the fines, but the reduction may not make sense.  While I found that arguments that support the reduction (such as errors in the NIF) may help the negotiations, ICE’s settlement number does not have to correlate in terms of the math and the schedule of fines.  In other words, the process may be similar to negotiating a settlement of a lawsuit. The numbers can be a little arbitrary, as long as there is a dispute going on.
  • ICE may be willing to stretch out payments as long as 72 months. Based on today’s applicable interest rate, that’s a deal!
  • Don’t agree that the settlement will bind all related entities or a particular individual such as the owner.  It should only bind the employer that was the subject of the inspection.
  • ICE can agree to not issue a press release, although it can’t agree not to respond to inquiries or requests about the settlement.  Avoiding a press release may be of value to you.

Its not a pleasant process, but with some help, you can make the best of the negotiation and get the best deal you can.