What to do if ICE comes to your worksite

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The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials plan a major sweep in Northern California. The article, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the operation, said the raids could occur in the coming weeks and would aim to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented immigrants.

As a California employer, you must know that just because an ICE officer visits your workplace, that does not mean that the agent has permission to talk to your employees or walk the premises without a proper warrant.  In fact, you must prevent this from happening! 

Also, ICE agents are not allowed to simply get documents without complying with notice obligations.  While perhaps not the most pleasant encounter, you and your employees don’t need to be combative or aggressive in order to prevent ICE from entering your workplace. You just need to be prepared and follow your procedure.  

As mentioned in this blog before, this year the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450) provides California workers with protection from immigration enforcement while on the job.  The new rules apply to all employers, regardless of size.

Employers must comply with strict rules limiting when ICE can be given access to the worksite or employee records. Employers must also comply with new notice obligations.

California employers cannot voluntarily allow ICE to enter nonpublic work areas or to access company records. Instead, ICE must present legal documentation in the form of a judicial warrant or subpoena before you can allow access. This is a warrant or subpoena issued by a court, not just a document issued by ICE itself.

If the ICE agent presents an ICE Notice of Inspection, ICE does not have the authority to simply enter the premises.  Rather, this Notice provides notice to the employer and a three-day response window to produce the Forms I-9 and other documents such as payroll records, list of current employees, articles of incorporation and business licenses.

Employers must follow specific requirements related to Form I-9 inspections. Within 72 hours of receiving a Notice of Inspection, California employers must post a notice to all current employees informing them of any federal immigration agency’s inspections of Forms I-9 or other employment records.

After the inspection concludes, employers have 72 hours to provide each “affected employee” a copy of the results and a written notice of the employer’s and employee’s obligations arising from the inspection. An “affected employee” is one identified by the inspection results as potentially lacking work authorization or having document deficiencies.

California employers must ensure that supervisors and any employees who may interact with ICE agents know the rules.  These employees must make sure that ICE agents are not simply voluntarily granted access without particular documentation –the judicial warrant or subpoena — in place.  You may want to train your public facing staff on their responsibilities and have a prompt response system in place. At a minimum, these individuals should be trained to ask for a judicial warrant or subpoena. (And not assume that any document is valid – even one with an ICE insignia. It must be a judicial warrant or subpoena).

In addition to the emotional havoc these ICE encounters have on your staff and the potential life-changing consequences if documentation is not deemed satisfactory, the penalties to California employers for violating the new state law can be up to $10,000 per violation. At the same time, federal penalties for Form I-9 violations can range from a $110 to $20,000.

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