Are you a small business owner?
What would you do if immigration agents came to your workplace?
You may have heard about the recent increase in immigration raids all over the United States. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been targeting undocumented immigrants not just at home but also at work. These raids have led to thousands of employees being arrested, some of them even deported.
→ According to Newsweek, workplace arrests by ICE have surged by 650% since 2016. Workplace investigations have increased by 300%.
ICE raids can happen even in immigrant-friendly sanctuary states and cities, like California and Los Angeles. Cities close to the border like San Diego can also become targets.
Many of these raids go after industries that rely on immigrant labor, such as hospitality, service, and farming. The recent large-scale raids in Mississippi, for example, targeted workers in meat, poultry, and food processing plants. Restaurants are bracing for the hit.
Workplace audits and raids can result in serious fines and penalties for you as an employer. They can also be scary for you and your employees. The best defense is to know your legal rights, be prepared, and have a strong advocate on your side before anything happens.
If you have been or think your business might be targeted for ICE immigration raids, talk to an immigration lawyer right away.
Call Jacob Sapochnick at 619.819.9204 for an experienced Southern California immigration attorney who can help protect you and your business.
Can ICE Raid My Company?
To work in the United States, employees must fill out Form I-9. Form I-9 requires each employee to prove that they have the legal right to work in the U.S.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the federal government agency that makes sure businesses comply with Form I-9. ICE has an entire division tasked with making sure employers aren’t hiring people who are undocumented.
To do this, ICE has the power to carry out “worksite enforcement investigations,” also known as Form I-9 audits. ICE does not need a warrant to carry out a Form I-9 audit – they only need a “reasonable suspicion” that an employer is breaking the law. ICE must give you at least 3 days’ notice before carrying out the audit.
That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan in place ahead of time. An unannounced ICE visit can send a shockwave through the office. To minimize the disruption, make sure to:
- Have your records in order
- Assign someone to interact with ICE agents
- Instruct your employees how to deal with agents if they arrive
- Pick a place to take agents where they won’t interfere with staff or customers
And if ICE comes to your workplace, call your immigration lawyer immediately.
Does ICE Require a Warrant to Raid Businesses?
ICE agents can come with two different types of warrants:
- Administrative warrants – issued by ICE under the Department of Homeland Security
- Judicial warrants – issued and signed by a U.S. District Court or State Court Judge
A valid warrant will include:
- A time frame for the search to happen
- A description of the places to be searched
- A list of items to search for and seize, such as business or I-9 records
Always ask to see a warrant, make sure to read it, and check that it’s signed. A judicial warrant gives ICE agents much more authority than an administrative warrant.
What Are ICE Agents Allowed to Do?
Depending on the type of warrant, ICE agents can enter parts of your workplace.
→ An ICE administrative warrant allows ICE agents only into public spaces. They can stop, question, or even arrest people in public areas.
→ A judicial warrant signed by a U.S. District Court Judge allows ICE to go into certain private areas based on the scope of the warrant.
Public areas include the “front of the house” or anywhere open to customers, such as the parking lot, lobby, or waiting area. For restaurants, that includes the dining area.
Without a judicial warrant, ICE agents cannot go to any private areas of your workplace unless you give them permission. If they try to go over the limits of the warrant, you can object. (By this time you should have already called your lawyer for help.)
Try to be clear about what parts of your workspace are private and public.
- Put up “private” or “employees only” signs
- Close or lock the doors to private areas
- Keep out members of the public as a policy
Even if ICE agents have a judicial warrant, that doesn’t necessarily give them permission to go into any private space. They still have to stay within the bounds of the warrant.
What Do I Do if Immigration Comes to My Workplace?
First – call your attorney. Our number at Sapochnick Law is 619.819.9204 and we have represented many clients in these types of situations.
ICE agents may come to your business looking for someone specific – or multiple people. They may try to question, detain or even arrest other people while they are on site. Although ICE agent uniforms may say “police” or “federal agent,” they are not police officers. Nonetheless, they may carry guns or bring the local police with them on their raids.
Always stay calm. Make sure your employees stay calm, too. If anyone tries to run, that could give ICE agents a reason to detain or question them.
What Should Employees Do in an ICE Work Raid?
Your workers do not have to talk to ICE agents or let them into your workplace. If ICE agents have a request, your employees should either say nothing or tell them to contact you.
→ Train your employees to say: “I can’t allow you to enter. You must speak to my employer.”
The best way for your employees to protect themselves is to stay silent and ask for a lawyer.
All workers have the right to refuse to hand over ID or papers. Remind your employees that anything they say to ICE could be used against them later.
What Employers Should Do When ICE Arrives
After calling your lawyer, make sure to watch the agents and make sure they’re staying within the limits of the warrant. You have the right to record what the agents do at your workplace if you feel comfortable doing so.
As the employer, you do not have to:
- Tell the ICE agents whether an employee is scheduled to work that day
- Take the ICE agents to any employee named in the warrant, even if they are at work
- Help the ICE agents sort workers by immigration status or country of origin
If any of your employees get arrested, ask the ICE agents where they are being taken. You can help their family and lawyer find them after the raid.
A lot is at stake in ICE worksite raids. Your lawyer will help you navigate this situation.
Hire a Lawyer and Protect Your Rights in an ICE Worksite Raid
The more prepared you are for an ICE raid, the smoother it will go for you and your employees if it ever happens. Call Sapochnick Law at 619.819.9204 today. Our experienced Southern California immigration lawyers can help you protect your rights.