As evidenced nationwide for the past several months, dealing with immigration issues is front and center on the national agenda.
Almost daily there are reports of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) renewed focus on workplace inspections, raids and increased deportation efforts. Given this increased enforcement, it is important for employers to know and understand their rights and to prepare ahead of time to respond to a work-site raid or if ICE issues a notice of inspection and conducts an audit of I-9 forms.
ICE raids are not random. To conduct a raid, ICE needs to obtain a warrant based on probable cause that the employer has somehow violated the law, such as evidence the employer has recruited, or is housing, transporting or employing unauthorized workers.
Employers need to prepare ahead of time for the possibility of an ICE led workplace raid. Some suggestions include:
Designate at least two staff members to be the primary contact persons (one lead, one back up) to deal with ICE. Make sure all employees know how to contact one of these individuals.
Instruct all staff not to give ICE consent to enter the property and refer them to the designated contact persons.
Advise employees they should thoroughly document (in writing, by videos, photos, etc) all contact and actions by ICE, including names, times and what was said.
If ICE shows up, employers should immediately contact legal counsel and have legal counsel review the warrant. However, ICE is unlikely to wait for legal counsel to respond before proceeding. Any search is limited by the scope of the warrant and employers have every right to reasonably review the warrant before allowing ICE to proceed. The warrant must be signed by a judge and specify the area to be searched or any person(s) to be arrested.
If the warrant is valid, employers and their employees are not required to answer any questions from ICE personnel. Everyone has the right to remain silent (and probably should) and consult with an attorney. Employers should not give ICE agents consent to speak with any employees.
If ICE discovers or learns of unauthorized workers in the workplace, those workers are subject to arrest and detention. The employer can assist workers with obtaining immigration counsel, which should not be the employers regular legal counsel. It may be wise to have contacted possible local legal counsel ahead of time who can offer their services in the event of a raid.
If an employee is detained, the employer should have ICE agents provide contact information, including phone numbers, of the local ICE detention center or any detention facility a detained worker might be transferred to.
Presently, there is a considerable uncertainty, among both employers and workers, as to what the future might hold for a number of immigrants working in North Central Washington. Now is the time to prepare for the possibly of a workplace inspection/raid, so employers can respond with confidence if ICE shows up at the workplace with a warrant.
Gil Sparks is an employment/labor law attorney with the law firm of Ogden Murphy Wallace, which has offices in Wenatchee and Seattle. He can be reached at 662-1954 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.