Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials descended upon dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide in an attempt to identify and remove workers who are in the country illegally. In total, 21 arrests were made. This was part of a continuing investigation into the franchise stores dating back to 2013, when several managers were charged with using stolen identities to hire undocumented workers.
A pattern of increased enforcement is expected to continue throughout the year. ICE Director Tom Homan has stated that the organization plans to spend up to five times more time on worksite enforcement than last year. The goal is to discourage illegal immigration, by prosecuting and fining employers and deporting undocumented workers.
In light of this, it’s important for employers to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to immigration laws. Federal law prohibits employers from knowingly hiring people who are not authorized to work in the United States. Employers must fill out a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for each new hire and review an employee’s supporting documentation. (To learn more, see our article on how to verify an employee’s work authorization.)
If ICE comes knocking on your door, you should consult with a lawyer right away. If ICE officials are conducting an I-9 audit, employers typically have three business days to provide the documents. ICE typically also needs a court-ordered warrant—or the permission of someone at your workplace—to enter nonpublic areas of the workplace. Your company should have a response plan in the event of an inspection and make sure that employees know who the point person is for communicating with ICE. (To learn more about, see this factsheet on employer rights compiled by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.)
California employers need to be particularly aware of this issue, as the state recently passed a law limiting an employer’s ability to voluntarily cooperate with immigration inspections. Among other things, California employers may not allow immigration officials into nonpublic parts of the workplace without a court-ordered warrant.