ICE Step ups Workplace Raids, Targeting California’s ‘Sanctuary Cities’

ICE Step ups Workplace Raids, Targeting California’s ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Last week, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided 98 7-Eleven stores throughout the US, arresting 21 people, including undocumented workers and franchise owners who were caught employing them. The point of the raids was not so much the arrests themselves, but rather a show of force intended to scare employers away from employing undocumented immigrant workers by demonstrating that the federal government was serious about cracking down on them, New York Times reporter Natalie Kitroeff noted earlier this week:

[A]ccording to law enforcement officials and experts with differing views of the immigration debate, a primary goal of such raids is to dissuade those working illegally from showing up for their jobs — and to warn prospective migrants that even if they make it across the border, they may end up being captured at work. Targeting 7-Eleven, a mainstay in working-class communities from North Carolina to California, seems to have conveyed the intended message.

“It’s causing a lot of panic,” said Oscar Renteria, the owner of Renteria Vineyard Management, which employs about 180 farmworkers who are now pruning grapevines in the Napa Valley. When word of the raids spread, he received a frenzy of emails from his supervisors asking him what to do if immigration officers showed up at the fields. One sent a notice to farmhands warning them to stay away from 7-Eleven stores in the area.

Employers in Northern California, in particular, are expected to be the targets of ICE’s next round of raids, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday, in what has been described as retaliation against the wave of “sanctuary” laws passed by numerous localities and the state of California limiting the degree to which local authorities can cooperate with federal agents in immigration enforcement. Another law passed last fall bars employers in the state from voluntarily allowing ICE agents onsite to conduct immigration inspections or to access employee records without a warrant or court order.

Supporters of these sanctuary jurisdictions say they enable closer cooperation between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, but President Donald Trump and ICE director Thomas Homan have criticized them, saying they endanger citizens and officers by making it more difficult for federal agents to detain and deport undocumented criminals. Immigrants’ rights advocacy groups in the Bay Area are preparing to resist the rumored raids, the Mercury News added on Wednesday, while California lawmakers have publicly criticized ICE for planning an enforcement action they consider politically motivated.

Whatever happens in California in the weeks ahead, more aggressive immigration enforcement actions and deportations are part and parcel of Trump’s broader agenda of cracking down on both legal and illegal immigration. At CNN Money, Parija Kavilanz hears from immigration law experts who say employers should expect such raids to become a regular event under this administration:

With the expected ramp up in worksite enforcement, “immigration could become the new white collar crime,” said John Fay, an immigration attorney with LawLogix, a provider of digital solutions for immigration and I-9 compliance.

Civil penalties for knowingly employing unauthorized immigrants can range from $548 to $21,916 per violation. Repeat offenders and companies hiring a larger number of undocumented employees receive fines that are on the higher end of the range. Criminal penalties for employing undocumented workers can result in monetary fines and possibly jail time.

At Workforce, immigration lawyer Montserrat C. Miller has a useful five-point checklist for employers to prepare for the increased likelihood of I-9 inspections. In summary, she recommends that employers double check that all I-9 forms are in order, train employees on how to complete and maintain these forms, make a plan for what to do if their workplace is visited by ICE agents, and consult outside counsel with immigration-specific expertise in the event of an investigation rather than trying to handle it themselves.