Preparing for Immigration Agents at the Workplace

As the administration’s crusade to tighten immigration enforcement continues, employers may wonder how to handle government visits to the workplace. Although we’ve seen no directives regarding worksite enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), immigration authorities have arrested hundreds of unauthorized immigrants in recent raids of areas with large immigrant populations. Wise employers will take steps now to prepare themselves and employees for unexpected official visits. Here is some advice gleaned from immigration law specialists.

Review compliance policies

  • Bring in your employment counsel to audit your compliance policies.
  • Verify Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), E-Verify (internet-based eligibility verification), and H-1B (non-immigrant visa) files to ensure they are complete and current.
  • Train all personnel in how to respond if immigration agents visit the company.

Develop procedures for response

  • Designate a specific person to greet the officials. This person needs to know exactly who needs to be informed immediately of the visit.
  • Brief employees on the proper protocol for interacting with government agents. Generally, that means to be cooperative while being careful not to volunteer information.
    • The receptionist should immediately contact the manager and other designated greeters, as well as legal counsel. Make the agents comfortable, but do not allow access to areas beyond the waiting room until the managers appear. If agents are aggressive or overly talkative, inform them that company protocol requires that you wait for the manager to engage with the agents.
    • The manager or designated greeter should make sure legal counsel and company headquarters, if applicable, have been notified prior to meeting the agents. Greet and escort the officials to a private room, preferably close to an exit to minimize disruption if an employee is taken into custody. Ask for identification and make a note of all information. Find out the reason for the visit and request the subpoena or warrant that brings them there.
    • If counsel is not on site, connect by phone and read the official documents aloud or take a photo and text the information. The type of subpoena determines whether the company can challenge it, so careful verification is essential.
  • If agents appear with an arrest warrant, they still cannot randomly search the premises. The warrant must specify the location to be accessed. Even a warrant to arrest an individual must explicitly authorize entry into an individual office, floor, or area. Agents must have a warrant or consent even if the company itself is under investigation.
  • Know the time allowed for compliance and never waive the time allotment. You want counsel to assist directly with submission of eligibility and immigration documentation to protect employee privacy.

Protect your company and employees’ rights.

  • Remind your employees not to volunteer any information beyond what is required by the warrant, as verified by counsel.
  • Do not turn over documents unless mandated by a search warrant, and make copies before providing the documentation.
  • Have counsel at hand in real time, in person if possible, to consult on all requests.

Anticipating every challenge is impossible, but planning can make a potentially volatile situation less likely to disrupt the workplace. We would love to help you prepare for encounters with immigration enforcement officials.

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