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What to Do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Comes to Your Business

With the current political climate, many small business owners are concerned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will pay a visit to their business. Despite their best efforts, small business owners can’t always know what goes on behind the scenes with every employee. Plus, these are co-workers and in many cases friends.

Why Would ICE Come to My Business?

According to the National Immigration Law Center, ICE will come to your place of business for a few reasons.

I-9 Audit

ICE officers may come to your workplace to confirm the identity and authorization to work in the U.S. for all your employees. When you hire employees, you need to make sure each of them fills out an I-9 form. Those forms should be onsite just in case ICE officers ask to see them.

To Speak to a Specific Employee(s)

ICE officers may also ask to speak to a specific employee. In this instance, you need to make sure that you’re not breaking the law. Do not hide employees or help them leave the premises.

What Should I Do if ICE Comes to My Business?

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has a complete pamphlet explaining what to do if ICE comes to your business, but there are some key points to highlight.

  • The minute ICE officers walk in the door, your receptionist or you should inform the agents that you will be calling your lawyer. Then call your lawyer.
  • Ask for a warrant. ICE officers should provide you with a warrant and that warrant should be signed by a court representative. If they do not, then it is not an authorized search. Read the warrant and ask for a copy of it. If you object, state your objection but do not get into an argument over it or try to prevent ICE officers from conducting their search.
  • Write down the name of the ICE officers involved, and the U.S. attorney assigned to the case.
  • You and your managers should not speak to ICE officers without first consulting with your attorney.
  • Inform your employees that they can choose to speak to the officers or choose not to. It’s up to them.
  • If ICE officers walk through your business, have an employee respectfully follow them. Your employee is legally allowed to photograph or record the search.
  • If anything is taken from your business, ask for an itemized list of what was taken.
  • If an employee is detained, contact his or her family and pay any wages to date.

ICE officers are allowed to search public areas of your business but are not allowed to search non-public ones unless those areas are specified in the search warrant.

What Should My Employees do if ICE Comes to My Business?

If your employees are asked to stay until ICE is done searching, then they also have rights.

  • Your employees are allowed to ask for an attorney if they’re being questioned. They also have the right to remain silent, though you cannot tell them to stay silent.
  • Employees do not have to disclose their immigration status, country of nationality or citizenship.

How to Prepare for a Visit from ICE Ahead of Time

Regardless of how you feel about the issue, it’s important that you know your rights and prepare your employees for the possibility of a visit by ICE officers. You should have a written response planned ahead of time that includes details about calling your lawyer.

You should also talk to your employees ahead of time about what they are and are not legally allowed to do.

The information provided in this article is a starting point but should not be considered legal advice. You must have an attorney in mind just in case an incident occurs. If you need more information about what to do during a visit from ICE officers, visit the National Immigration Law Center or the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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