Since President Donald Trump took office, at least 22 immigrants have died in ICE detention centers. Many were children and most were younger than 45 years of age. It’s also faced widespread criticism on its “zero tolerance” policy, which calls for prosecuting all illegal immigrants and separating them from their families.
In the fiscal year 2018 (which began in October 2017), ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations team opened 6,848 worksite investigations, roughly four times more than the ones launched in 2017. ICE has also reported a 650 percent surge in workplace arrests, along with a 300% increase in the number of workplace investigations launched. The agency also initiated 5,981 I-9 audits (compared to 1,360 in 2017) to verify the employment authorizations of employees in the USA.
Employment audits are on the rise, and companies need to start taking their immigration records seriously. Businesses in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois in particular need to be careful, as those six states account for 58% of unauthorized immigrants. If they are found to violate Form 1-9 rules, they may face criminal charges and penalties.
Here are the things you need to know to “ICE-proof” your business in 2019:
Know Your Rights
ICE agents may come to your workplace for a Form I-9 audit, a raid, or to detain specific people. When that happens, it’s important for employers to be aware of and exercise their rights. Just because an ICE agent is at your door doesn’t mean they have permission to detain people without a proper warrant; nor are you required to turn over documents without receiving a subpoena requesting for payroll and tax-related information.
Keep Your Records in Order
According to Littler Mendelson shareholder and immigration practice group chair Jorge Lopez, businesses should address any weak points they have with the I-9 process. This may require employers to periodically self-audit their I-9 forms, make sure that staff members are trained on how to correctly complete the form, and addresses any deficiencies in the process beforehand.
Have a Response Plan in Place
ICE agents may come unannounced to your workplace, prior to obtaining a warrant or subpoena. The best to get ahead of this would be to have an “ICE Protocol” in place. Have point people who can interact with ICE agents, and train them to cooperate with ICE agents without putting any customers or employees at risk. Also, make sure to train everyone on staff on how to talk to ICE agents. Lastly, connect with immigration response networks in your area, so that they can provide any needed support should ICE agents come to your office.
This might seem like a dystopian universe, but immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration is now the new normal. Employers must grapple with the fact that they will face serious consequences should they be on the wrong side of immigration compliance, while also protecting the security and humanity of their employees.