February 14, 2017

Keep Employees Calm But Be Prepared

 |  By: Mike Opperman

First there was campaign rhetoric about building a wall and deporting millions of immigrants. Then he became elected and made some of that rhetoric come to life through executive orders. President Trump has not made it easy for immigrant workers, or their employers, to sleep at night.

While the fear started from not knowing what immigration policies would be put in place, it became palpable with a series of immigration raids targeting mostly those immigrants with past criminal behavior. A series of immigration raids in Los Angeles led to 161 immigrants detained, 37 of whom were deported back to Mexico. Several other raids in the Carolinas, Georgia, New York and other areas netted more.

The fear is not restricted to urban areas. “The executive order is causing a lot more uneasiness among those workers whose status may be in question,” says Norman Groot, executive director of the Monterey County, California Farm Bureau. “It may be more difficult for ranchers and farmers to count on the work force as they need them.”

As immigrant workers across the country go to work each day concerned about their own, or their loved ones, employment status, there are two important things dairy employers can do. First, provide reassurance that their status as an employee is secure. Remind them that the impetus behind the immigration raids is to find those that have engaged in criminal conduct within the U.S. Your employees who have not engaged in such activity should be more at ease.

Second, while you are providing assurance to your employees, make sure documentation is in order should an immigration raid occur at your facility.

“[Producers] should begin preparing for increased worksite enforcement and renewed emphasis on Form I-9 audits,” says Jeff Janas, communications manager with Western Growers. “This means that employers should be proactive to recognize and correct Form I-9 problems before ICE comes knocking on the door.”

Most important with regard to paperwork is the I-9 form. Every employee must fill out an I-9 form that documents employee identity, and as part of the process the employer also has to confirm the employee’s identity. A physical copy of something from List A, or one from List B and one from List C must be seen. Common examples from Lisa A include a U.S. Passport or a Permanent Residence Card. List B documents include a driver’s license, government ID card, school ID card with a photo, Military ID card or a Native American Tribal document. List C is most often a social security card.

“It can’t be two documents from B, or two documents from C,” explains Shannon Ferrell with Oklahoma State Extension. “You must see one from each list.” For e-verify employers, only one document from List B with a photograph is required.

Employers are required to keep a copy of the I-9 form, but you are not required to keep copies of identification documentation, according to Ferrell. However, “if you keep them for some employees you need to keep it for all employees,” Ferrell says. Keeping copies for only a handful of employees could show discrimination.