Stepped up raids under the Trump administration has prompted uncertainty and fear among all immigrants—both legal and undocumented—as well as employers.
Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) served at least 77 Northern California businesses with notices to show hiring documents. Most recently, ICE conducted a five-day operation in Southern California. Officers conducted raids and served notices to 122 businesses that they will be audited to determine whether their employees are in the country illegally.
Moreover, ICE has previously said it planned to significantly increase immigration enforcement in U.S. workplaces.
I’ve been fielding questions from startup founders, company executives, and investors about how to comply with immigration law in the Trump era. Here are my top five recommendations for employers:
1. Know the Status of Your Employees
Given company growth and turnover, employers may find it difficult to keep track of the immigration status of their employees. But keeping track of your employees’ immigration status is crucial. Your employees’ immigration status determines what obligations you have to both those employees and to the U.S. government.
You must make sure everyone employed by your company is legal, has permission to live and work full time in the U.S. and receive an income. Employers face fines or even criminal prosecution for hiring workers who do not have the appropriate authorization.
2. Keep Accurate Records
Partners at limited liability companies frequently say their partners don’t keep them informed about who they hire and for how long. I’m even more troubled when executives cannot locate immigration documents for individuals or reconstruct what information was submitted to the government.
Executives need to know if a company hires a foreign worker, for how long, the type of visa the employee receives, and the information submitted to the government.
3. Get Documents in Order
Under the Trump administration, ICE agents are increasingly likely to audit, raid, or detain specific individuals at a business. ICE agents can request to view I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) forms, H-1B public access folders, and other immigration documents that employers are required to keep available for public inspection.
If these documents are not in order, you may face a cease hiring order, civil or criminal fines and penalties.
4. Do Not Volunteer Info to ICE in CA
If ICE agents or investigators show up at your office, resist the temptation to comply with everything they ask for.
In California, you now face penalties if you give access to employee records other than public documents like I-9s. A law that went into effect on Jan. 1, prohibits employers from voluntarily allowing immigration officials access to private employee records without a subpoena or a warrant signed by a judge. Known as the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, the new law also requires employers to notify affected employees of record inspections within 72 hours. Moreover, it prohibits employers from granting officers access to the business’ non-public areas without a warrant signed by a judge.
5. Report Employee Changes
If an employer-sponsored visa holder’s job duties, wage, or work hours change, amending your sponsorship petition may be required.
In some cases, you will need to inform the government if you’re terminating H-1B or other visa holders. Moreover, you may have obligations to the employee, such as paying for the cost of the employee returning home.
We Can Help
In this age of increased immigration enforcement under Trump, it’s more important than ever that your company is in compliance.
The Alcorn Immigration Law team assists employers with internal audits of immigration documents. We can educate your management team and help you create clear internal policies about how you and your employees should respond in the event of a raid. If you are not sure what duties you have to your employees, we can clarify those as well. Contact us.