True to its word, last week Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents issued Notices of Inspection (NOIs) at seventy-seven Northern California businesses. ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents spread out across northern California, serving NOIs in Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose at the end of January. No employees or employers were arrested at the time; instead, HSI agents notified businesses that they are being audited and provided seventy-two hours to produce their employees' Forms I-9, Employment Eligibility Verifications.
The worksite actions follow ICE's Deputy Director Thomas Homan's comments that ICE would increase its activities in California after designating itself an official sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants following the passage of AB 450. With Homan's nomination to be the Director of ICE, these and other comments by Homan indicate ICE may very well follow through on its promises—both that enforcement will increase by "four to five times" this year and that California may bear a disproportionate brunt of the action.
Employers across industries should proactively prioritize addressing immigration compliance by:
- conducting careful internal assessments;
- conducting Form I-9 audits (with the assistance of competent counsel);
- reviewing and/or establishing procedures to ensure employees are prepared to deal with visits from ICE;
- creating and updating immigration compliance polices; and,
- providing training and resources in order to ensure the Form I-9 process is captured correctly.
Prioritizing immigration compliance today will prevent problems and minimize exposure tomorrow.
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