Its become a very popular issue for local lawyers lately, advising employers on what to do when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers show up their door to conduct a search for illegal immigrants working on the premesis, and to inspect the I-9 files of the employer, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Deepak Ahluwalia, who is of counsel with the local firm of Patel Gaines and who advises employers on this issue, says his phone has been ringing a lot, ever since ICE doubled its workplace inspections this year as part of President Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration.
Ahluwalia says, first of all, employers do not have to grant ICE officials immediate access to their property.
"You are entitled legally to three days to respond to that audit, unless you sign a waiver giving them immediate access to those documents," he said.
But Ahluwalia says if ICE shows up at an employers place of business with a warrant for the arrest of a specific person, not granting them access to that person would be obstruction of justice.
He suggests that all employers, even those who say they are 100% in compliance with immigration law, should have a plan of action in advance of any ICE action. He says you should know where you stored your I-9 forms.
He reminds employers that I-9 forms need to be kept on file for three years after the worker is hired, and for one year after the worker's last day of work, whichever is longer.
He suggests having an I-9 drill, similar to a fire drill, so everybody can be ready, and know what they can and can't do.
He says ICE agents are limited to what they can do during an I-9 inspection, and all workers, not just the owner or the manager, who may not be on the scene with ICE arrives, need to understand that.
"They can't walk in, not show you anything, not identify themselves, and they cannot have access to back rooms, break rooms, that kind of thing, unless they are listed on the subpoena itself." He says you cannot keep ICE agents off of places where the general public is allowed, like the main aisles of retailers or the lobbies of hotels.
He says employers are likely to face fines due to sloppy handling of I-9 forms, and before ICE arrives is the time to make sure those forms are in order.
"You have to make sure that the documents that you are required by law to fill out as mandated by law, they have to be fully filled out," he said. "You cannot have incorrect dates. You can't have half the information missing.
"He anticipates more raids will be coming, as part of the Administration's continuing effort to crack down on illegal immigration.
IMAGE: DEEPAK AHLUWALIA