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Feb 28, 2018

ICE Heavily Targeted California Businesses in February

Matthew Galati and Jonathan A. Grode

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appears to be making good on its Director’s promise to potentially quintuple worksite enforcement actions, as evident in its raids throughout California this past month.

At the beginning of February, ICE agents swept into 77 businesses in the northern part of the state, serving employers with Notices of Inspection. As ICE spokesman James Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle, the agency’s strategy is stated to be “focused on protecting jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthening public safety and national security.” Approximately two weeks later, ICE executed a five-day immigration sweep across Southern California, arriving at 122 businesses’ doorsteps. According to CNBC, ICE’s operations led to the arrest of 212 workers. At least fifty additional arrests occurred on February 27, although the location of the raids was not immediately clear.

Notably, ICE’s actions follow growing tensions between state and local officials and the Administration’s heavy enforcement approach to immigration. Recently, California enacted Senate Bill 54, known as its “Sanctuary Law”, which includes provisions curtailing the state’s local law enforcement ability to share data with the agency.  In retaliation, this past week President Trump openly stated that he’s considering removing ICE from all operations in California a move that would create “a crime nest like you've never seen.” (We disagree – as study after study shows that immigrants, even those undocumented, are less likely to commit crimes compared to their U.S. citizen counterparts).

Regardless of the policy differences on this issue, large-scale, headline-grabbing ICE raids appear to be increasing in frequency. It remains to be seen whether raids will predominantly focus on sanctuary jurisdictions, such as our beloved Philadelphia (which states its policy online), or be more widespread. We noted just last month that 98 7-Eleven stores were targeted in raids across the nation.

Nevertheless, businesses of all types would be well-advised to ensure that their worksite and hiring practices are fully compliant. Significant fines resulting from Form I-9 violations may attach even in cases where all workers are employment-authorized. Contact us today for more information relating to changing administrative priorities and ensuring your immigration-related obligations are met. 

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