February 17, 2017

What To Do If ICE Comes Knocking

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Over the past two weeks it seems most of the country has been buzzing about immigration raids. Last week, raids happened from coast to coast and on Friday the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration plans to utilize the National Guard to aid in further raids. While farmers don’t employ workers with illegal status on purpose, there is some fear in the farm community about the most recent series of immigration enforcement measures.

“Take a step back and realize we’re still trying to separate fact and fiction,” says Kelly Fortier, a farm immigration attorney with firm Michael Best. “We don’t know who’s been picked up, who hasn’t been picked up, who’s on the radar or who’s not on the radar.”

The last series of raids indicate agents are apprehending illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Fortier says most of those arrested in raids this month were picked up from their homes and not from the workplace. “We’re not seeing them come [to the business] and look at the employer in general,” she says. “They are usually coming in with a warrant for one specific individual.” Still, she admits “everyone is a little freaked out.”

Here’s what you need to know if ICE comes knocking:

1. Know Your Private Property Rights. According to Fortier, you do not have to give private property access to any government official without consent. “Unless they have some kind of subpoena or warrant, they’re not allowed to just walk around without the permission of the business owner,” she says. Additionally, Fortier advises every farm have a plan in place to know what to do if an immigration enforcement agent shows up at your farm. Ensure whoever the agent’s first point of contact knows to call the farm owner, knows who has the ability to give agents consent to be on the property without a warrant, and make sure everyone knows what to do if the agent does have a warrant.  “It seems like common sense, but in the heat of the moment it’s really nice to have some kind of written procedure for what people should do,” she says.

2. Get Your Form I-9s in Oder. Fortier says it’s a good idea to ensure all of your I-9s are ready to go and are organized if they aren’t already. “If the government wants to look at employers they’ll usually look at the I-9s and start there,” she says. Fortier says it’s a good idea to audit the I-9s yourself to ensure they are filled out completely and void of any errors. The most common immigration related fines for an employer are related to I-9 forms having some kind of error. “It’s easy to make errors on the I-9 forms so it’s not shocking to be fined for I-9 issues,” she says.

3. Have a Staffing Plan. While most of the workers in question are being picked up at their home, the situation can still cause issues for farmers. Fortier recommends farmers have a staffing plan in place in the event one or more of their employees does not show up for work. “Once an individual is picked up it’s very hard to predict when they might be coming back, if ever,” she says. “If there is an immigration problem, the farm may never see them again.”

4. Give Agents Your Full Cooperation. While you don’t have to allow agents to roam your private property without consent, it’s imperative that you aren’t seen as harboring a criminal. “If the government thinks you’re proactively hiding or sheltering individuals you know are in the country unlawfully, you could be facing criminal liability, even seizing of assets,” she says. Be sure employees know not to hide from agents. Be prepared to find an employee and bring them to an agent who arrives with a warrant for that person.

"The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) and other organizations are supporting dairy producers and employees during these difficult times," says Laurie Fischer of the Fischer Group. "I encourage dairy industry stakeholders to communicate the need for immigration reform to legislators immediately."