ICE – How to Prepare Your Business

This year, investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials into undocumented workers and the businesses that employ them have increased.  Hundreds of businesses across the country have been raided.  While most of these raids have occurred in California, businesses all over the country should be prepared in the event they are visited by one of these federal officials. 

Why Now?

According to statistics released by the federal government, in 2017, there were approximately 1,300 immigration raids across the country. So, why are we hearing more about ICE raids in 2018?  Earlier this year, President Trump proposed a budget of $570.9 million, to hire additional ICE officers and special agents for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division.  And it appears the current pace of ICE Raids will continue in the coming months, as ICE’s goal is to achieve a minimum of 5,000 enforcement visits this year. 

Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers can face civil fines and potential criminal prosecution, and employees who work for a business confronted with an immigration raid can face deportation.

Time is of the essence to review your ICE Audit & Raid plans in the event your business receives an unexpected visit from this federal agency.


How To Prepare

Taking the following steps now may help your business limit its risk and avoid disruption. 

  • Review your I-9 Compliance program; make sure it is current and all steps are being followed
  • Utilize payroll records to ensure you have all I-9 forms on file for current employees or prior employees
  • Complete any I-9 forms that are lost or missing. All current employees hired after November 6, 1986 must have an I-9 form on file 
  • Conduct routine audits of I-9 forms and resolve identified issues 
  • Facilitate a training session for all staff and managers on the proper way to complete an I-9 form and what steps to take if they obtain knowledge that an employee may not be authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Organize a rapid response raid team that is responsible for contacting immigration counsel and employment counsel in the event of a raid 
  • Ensure the rapid response team is trained on the actions to take in the event of a visit from ICE officials

Taking these concrete steps now may limit the risk of an invasive ICE raid of your business.


Can ICE Interrupt My Business?

Yes.  You may experience a visit from an ICE official in one of two ways:  Through an audit, or through a raid.  

ICE Audits:  Actions to Take

Audits are the most routine way ICE officials interact with businesses.  This is done by initiating a Notice of Inspection, providing a business 3 days to produce I-9 forms for review.  You may also be asked to produce other reports and lists such as payroll reports, employee records and lists and other business information.

If you receive such Notice, it is imperative for you to contact legal counsel immediately.  Your counsel may be able to provide assistance in getting an extension to the 3-day timeframe, or assist in making the inspection process more efficient.  The process involves a thorough review of your I-9 forms and all associated documents for: (i) proper completion and (ii) legitimacy concerns. There is no set time frame for how long the review process will take. However, once the review is complete, ICE will provide you with the results. 

If you are not in full compliance, penalties and repercussions will be based on the severity of the findings.  You may be given a short amount of time to correct mistakes or—if the findings are more egregious—you may be issued a warning with or without monetary penalties.  If you receive more substantive violations or knowingly hired individuals not authorized to work in the US, ICE will issue more severe consequences.

If you find you are not in compliance, it is best to contact your legal counsel for assistance. They may provide guidance and direction to help you resolve the issue. 

ICE Raids:  Actions to Take

As a more aggressive approach, ICE may conduct an actual raid of your business. If this occurs, it means ICE has presented enough information to a judicial official to gain immediate access to your premises and records.  This approach does not provide you a ‘grace period’ to gather records, or allow you time to contact your attorney for assistance.

Remain calm. After being served with the warrant, do the following:

  • Review the warrant – to ensure it is signed by a judge and all aspects are in order 

  • Make a copy of the warrant to provide to your attorney

  • Identify a business representative to monitor ICE officials during their search—to ensure they stay within the scope of the warrant—but do not interfere with the search or investigation

  • Cooperate with ICE officials – do not hide employees or aid them in their escape, do not shred documents/evidence, do not provide inaccurate information

  • Consult with your attorney before providing any verbal or written statements to ICE officials.  However, do not instruct employees to refrain from speaking to agents if questioned

  • Document every piece of information seized by ICE, and who you are providing it to – provide this information to your attorney once the raid is complete

  • Partner with your attorney regarding how best to respond to media inquiries during and after the raid, if necessary


Don’t Delay – Prepare Now!

All of this may seem a bit frightening. However, businesses need to be prepared for ICE audits and raids due to the increase in these activities.  While you can never anticipate if this activity will impact your business, it is important to have these proactive measures in place, and keep your employees calm during this disruptive time. 

If you need assistance or advice, contact an attorney at JDSA Law for assistance.