SEATTLE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reached its highest number yet of companies audited for illegal immigrants on their payrolls this past fiscal year.Audits of employer I-9 forms increased from 250 in fiscal year 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012. From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew to nearly $13 million from $1 million. The number of company managers arrested has increased to 238, according to data provided by ICE.The investigations have been one of the pillars of President Barack Obama’s immigration policy.When Obama recently spoke about addressing immigration reform in his second term, he said any measure should contain penalties for companies that purposely hire illegal immigrants. It’s not a new stand, but one he will likely highlight in efforts to revamp the nation’s immigration system.“Our goal is compliance and deterrence,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge at ICE’s Seattle office. “The majority of the companies we do audits on end up with no fines at all, but again it’s part of the deterrence method. If companies know we’re out there, looking across the board, they’re more likely to bring themselves into compliance.”Advocates say the audits have pushed workers further underground in mass layoffs, and have disrupted business practices.When the ICE audit letter arrived at Belco Forest Products, management wasn’t entirely surprised. Two nearby businesses in Shelton, a small timber town on a bay off Puget Sound, had already been investigated.