On Wednesday morning, officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement inspected nearly 100 7-Eleven stores across the country, and arrested 21 employees for being illegally present in the United States. This is believed to be the Trump Administration’s largest immigration enforcement operation against an individual employer to date. The 7-Eleven raids and others are consistent with the Trump Administration’s announcement last October of its intention to increase significantly enforcement of the immigration laws in workplaces.
This week’s raids bring back memories of a March 6, 2007, ICE raid at Michael Bianco, Inc., a leather factory and government contractor in New Bedford, Massachusetts. As a result of that raid, 361 illegal workers were arrested and some were detained at a facility in Texas. Michael Bianco, the owner of the company, was sentenced to 12 months and a day in federal prison, plus three years of supervised release. He was also required to pay a $30,000 fine for helping to harbor and conceal illegal immigrants.
This new policy of arrests and enforcement has produced results. There were nearly 30,000 more non-border ICE arrests during the first fiscal year of Trump's term, which ended on September 30, 2017, than during all of fiscal year 2016.
Common Sense Counsel: What does this new Trump policy mean for employers? For violations a civil penalties could reach $21,563 for each person illegally employed; and for violations of simple recordkeeping, civil penalties could reach $2,156 for each I-9 Form containing substantive violations or uncorrected technical violations. The best strategy for employers is to have their house in order before ICE shows up unexpectedly. The following steps are recommended:
1) Conduct periodic self-audits of your I-9s and practices, and review any deficiencies or corrective action with immigration counsel. Particular attention should be given to cases where concerns are raised about the legal status of the employee despite the I-9 documents presented by the employee.
2) Prepare yourself by having a procedure to follow if and when ICE agents arrive. The front desk personnel need to be trained about who is to be contacted, and they should know not to provide any other information to ICE. The employer’s procedure also should include who is to be the employer’s lead contact with ICE.
3) Know where your I-9s are maintained. Although employers have three business days to provide the I-9s, that time can pass quickly if the documents cannot be located or if the I-9s are in an off-site location.
Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-246-2901. Will Krasnow in the Constangy Boston office drafted this excellent update. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com