Cold as ICE! Winter Raids a Signal to Plan Now

The snow is falling, but the I9 audit is a hot topic again as US immigration officials begin carrying out a promised fourfold increase in surprise workplace raids for undocumented workers.

Last month, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) conducted the largest coordinated raid to date when it struck 100 7-Eleven locations across the country. Scores of workers were arrested, leaving 7-Eleven’s parent company and its vast network of stores scrambling to contain the legal and PR fallout.

We’ve written about how ICE’s new I9 form makes it easy to verify work authorization of new hires. Today, we’re offering our top tips on how to prepare now for an ICE raid.

Audit Yourself, But Don’t Spring It On Employees.

You should review their I9 forms, either in full or by sampling based on neutral/nondiscriminatory criteria. Beforehand, employers should alert workers to the I9 review, its purpose and what to expect from the process, particularly if the employer identifies a problem with a worker’s I9 or finds I9s are missing.

Weigh the Odds of a Raid.

Companies that have been inspected (and fined) in the past are vastly more likely to be inspected again, since ICE may seek enhanced penalties against companies committing second and third offenses. Employers in certain industries are also at greater risk, such as food service, agriculture, hospitality, strategic infrastructure, manufacturing and apparel.

Ready an ICE Raid Protocol.

Prepare the “what,” “when” and “who” that trigger in a raid. The “what” are the records ICE will seek, including, I9s, payroll records, tax filings, employment applications, personnel files and business licenses. Employers should be ready to supply these records quickly.

There are two parts to the “when” – notification and consent. First, companies may receive a Notice of Inspection by letter or email before ICE shows up, and typically have a few days thereafter to prepare for a visit. Extensions may be granted in certain cases. The second part of “when” is timing the consent to inspection. ICE Agents cannot enter a business without consent. Employers must think carefully and strategically with their attorneys about the timing and manner of giving consent.

As for “who,” it’s critical to define and coordinate ahead of times the roles and responsibilities of all who will respond to an ICE raid, including site managers, HR staff and immigration and employment attorneys. Security personnel and receptionists should also be instructed to identify visiting ICE agents and escort them to a designated waiting area until the appropriate people are notified of the visit.

Take Notes.

If a raid occurs, record all documents, equipment and personnel seized and try to copy all documents, if allowed. Record any oral statements made and any instructions given by the officers and soon as possible and note where the officers went on the premises. Share this with your attorneys immediately.

Get Ready To Make Headlines.

Be prepared for media attention. Have a public relations plan ready to launch. The PR team can game out media questions and coach key executives on response. They should also be familiar with the topic and, if needed, able to draft a press release to be reviewed by their lawyer and a PR firm. Employees should be reminded not to speak to the press, but to refer media members to designated spokespeople.

An ICE visit is a stressful event, even for the most compliant businesses. Employers can reduce the trauma and its potential drag on operations by being prepared.

Contact a Chicago Employment Law Attorney

Savine Employment Law, Ltd. represents Chicago and Illinois employers in all aspects of labor and employment law. Our starting point is a preventive approach – we first aim to ensure our clients comply with the law and avoid employee disputes. When disputes arise, we look for peaceful paths to resolution that service the business’s goals. When lawsuits result, we defend our clients aggressively and creatively. Call Savine Employment Law, Ltd. today for a Chicago employment lawyer.