If immigration agents raided your place of business looking for evidence of immigration violations, it is important to take steps to protect yourself. Employers found guilty of immigration law violations can face serious civil and even criminal penalties.
An experienced immigration lawyer could work to protect your rights and defend your business against allegations of illegal practices. Our firm can assist with the training of your HR professionals, regular audits, and creating best-practice policy manuals. Workplace raids are becoming more common as enforcement officials respond to changes in policy, so the right defensive strategy can make a big difference.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service (ICE) is the agency under the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for enforcing immigration laws. ICE often conducts workplace raids to find illegal immigrants suspected of working for a particular company. Most of the referrals to ICE, come from disgruntled former employees. Employers face substantial potential penalties if undocumented workers are found on site.
ICE also conducts audits of employers to inspect I-9 employment eligibility verification forms. If employers are missing forms or have forms on file that are missing any information, they could be subject to fines or other penalties.
If ICE is conducting an audit of I-9 forms, the agency is first supposed to send a Notice of Inspection letter giving the employer at least three business days to produce the request forms and supporting documentation. The employer has the right to decline to provide this information in less than three days, such as if the forms are requested during a surprise workplace raid.
If ICE is seeking illegal workers, the agency does not need to provide any advance notice. However, an ICE raid is subject to many of the same requirements as other law enforcement activity. Agents need consent to enter areas that are not open to the public, or they need a warrant signed by a judge. Employers and their employees also have the right to remain silent if questioned and employers have the right to refuse to allow entry without a warrant. In most cases, it is wise to consult an attorney before granting consent to any type of search.
Employers can prepare for workplace raids by keeping private areas of the business closed off and marked private and ensuring that employees understand what to do in the event of a raid. If ICE agents have a warrant, an employer may limit the scope of the search to what is specifically described in the warrant.
Right after a workplace raid, it is wise for an employer to take note of specific information for use in defense. It can be helpful to note the number of agents, the presence of any weapons, the agents’ treatment of employees, and any assertions made by agents. If the agents violated the rights of employees or the employer, those violations could help fight any allegations of wrongdoing made by ICE.
After ICE has conducted a workplace raid, the agency may send the employer a Notice of Intent to Fine specifying violations. The employer may attempt to negotiate a settlement with ICE or request a hearing with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer. However, a hearing must be requested within 30 days. An attorney can help defend against any alleged violations at the hearing.
An experienced immigration employment lawyer could help. If the workplace raid results in a hearing, an attorney can help fight the allegations and work towards a positive outcome. To make sure you are protected in the event of a raid, reach out to an experienced attorney for a consultation.
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