As an undocumented immigrant and small business owner in the U.S., the thought of immigration officials coming to your business can be terrifying. What should you do? What rights do you have as a business owner? What are the rights of your employees? Who can help?
During a time of increased immigration enforcement actions, it is important for every small business to be prepared for an immigration raid. If you are not prepared and do not have a plan for your employees, your business could be affected and you could risk not protecting the rights of your employees. Your employees may even be afraid to come to work. That is why it is a powerful tool to learn about what rights you and your employees do have in case of an immigration raid of your small business.
Who Are the Immigration Officials?
The government agency that enforces the immigration laws against businesses is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Raids are conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is part of ICE. ICE-HSI agents are the immigration officials who would come to your small business if there were an immigration raid there.
Why Might ICE Come to My Business?
If ICE believes that a small business may be employing immigrants who do not have work authorization, it may conduct a raid of the business.
An ICE workplace raid can happen without warning. ICE may have already conducted an investigation and identified that undocumented immigrants may be working at the business.
What Can My Small Business Do If ICE Believes It is Violating the Immigration Laws?
If ICE finds that the business has violated immigration laws through the process of an audit or raid, the business may have to pay civil fines. There can also be criminal penalties.
ICE will notify the business of inspection results and provide the employer 10 business days to make corrections for any violations. It is critical to have a lawyer who can help protect and defend your business during this period. This is because if there are violations left unresolved after 10 days, civil fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per violation.
How Can a Small Business Protect its Immigrant Workers If Immigration Officials Come?
By knowing what requirements ICE has to follow, you can help protect yourself, your co-workers, and your employees.
In order to carry out a raid, ICE HSI must have a warrant that describes what documents they are searching for and where they are looking. Not only is ICE generally not permitted to enter a private workplace unless it has a search or arrest warrant, but that warrant must also be signed by a judge.
Therefore, if ICE comes, small business owners can stand up for their rights and ask ICE to show the warrant signed by a judge. If ICE does not have a warrant, a small business can protect itself and its undocumented immigrant workers by refusing to let ICE into the workplace without a warrant.
It is particularly important to say “no” to ICE when it does not have a warrant. This is because if employers do give ICE permission to enter, generally ICE will have a basis to enter the small business even if it does not have a warrant signed by a judge.
How To Check if ICE Has a Proper Warrant
If ICE does have a search warrant signed by a judge, the warrant typically states specific locations ICE may search for certain items. Often the warrant does not permit ICE to arrest individuals. It is important to not let ICE search any areas that are not listed in the warrant.
What Rights Do Immigrants Have During an ICE Workplace Raid?
Unfortunately, ICE can sometimes attempt to arrest and deport undocumented workers encountered during the raid of the business.
If ICE tries to enter the workplace anyway without a warrant, individuals can first of all state that they do not consent to the search.
When ICE does have a warrant, the search warrant is likely limited to immigration employment laws such as to allow for a search of employment records. A worker has the right to see a copy of the warrant and say “no” to questions about their personal immigration status.
Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the federal appellate court that oversees California and other states on the west coast, held that immigration officials violated the law when they arrested an immigrant worker despite the search warrant being limited to employment records. The federal judge stated that the law “does not justify using a search warrant for documents to ‘target’ for detention, interrogation, and arrest busloads of people who could not otherwise be detained.”
What To Do If ICE Arrests One or More of Your Employees or Colleagues
If ICE does arrest one or more of your employees or colleagues, one of the best things you can do is try to find an immigration lawyer to help defend them from deportation. Bur below you can learn about other measures you can take.
ICE may detain the person and place them in an immigration detention center to be detained while they face deportation proceedings. In this scenario, there are several concrete steps you can take that can help the person.
Measure 1: First, you can reach out to the person’s family and friends to let them know what happened. This will allow them to start pulling together resources to help the person, try to find them an immigration lawyer, and perhaps collect money to pay for an immigration bond to seek their release from detention if they are eligible.
Measure 2: You can work with the family and friends of the employee or colleague to try to help find out where the person is located. If the person is detained, you can search for what detention center they are at on the ICE Detainee Locator website.
If the person has had an immigration case or interacted with immigration officials previously, they will likely have an A#, which, along with their country of origin, can be used on the site to find their location. If the person does not have an A# or you cannot find out what it is, you can search for the person by their name, date of birth, and country of origin.
Measure 3: As we mentioned, helping the employee find an immigration lawyer can make a significant difference, as immigrants who have an immigration lawyer are about five times more likely to win their case, giving them a higher chance to stay in the U.S. with their family.
It is best to make sure that the immigration attorney is actually a licensed lawyer in good standing with a State Bar Association and that they maintain their license with continuing legal education. One of the best resources to check this information is through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) lawyer search. If the immigration attorney is a member of AILA, that is also a great way to check and make sure the person is actually a lawyer and not a notario fraud.
Here you have a complete list of legal resources you can access as an immigrant
At Camino Financial we stand behind our motto “No Business Left Behind” and therefore we have a solid commitment with the Latino community. We do our best to keep you informed about your rights as an immigrant and to bring you the best resources to protect your business, your family and yourself. Keep reading here to learn if your business may be at risk because of the immigration laws.