Homeland Security Steps Up Interior Immigration Enforcement

Mr. John Wargowsky, Executive Director - Mid American Ag and Hort Services

Mid American Ag and Hort Services (MAAHS) is highlighting recent announcements and actions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS unveiled a comprehensive immigration enforcement strategy for the nation's interior on April 20. It includes worksite enforcement designed to: 1) punish knowing and reckless employers of illegal aliens, 2) eliminate Social Security abuses that support illegal immigration, and 3) work with Congress to build an employer compliance system. The complete news release is available at www.midamservices.org under "What's New."

Also on April 20, DHS announced that its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigative unit arrested seven managers of a nationwide pallet company and 1,187 of the firm's illegal aliens in 26 states. Roughly 53% of the firm's employees during 2005 had invalid / mismatched Social Security numbers. This complete release is also found at www.midamservices.org under "What's New."

The MAAHS has received a number of calls from members concerned over this issue. As a result, MAAHS has compiled a set of links to MAAHS and governmental published guidance to assist employers in complying with employment eligibility verification, Social Security "no match" letter handling and more. The link to this page may be found under Immigration and is only accessible to paid MAAHS members who have requested members' only access.

The interior investigative and enforcement (ICE) agency within DHS is responsible for ensuring the departure of illegal aliens from the United States through fair enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. There are three ways that ICE may contact you:

An I-9 audit. This is the most common way for an investigation to begin. If you are advised that ICE wishes to audit your records, you should ask for 3 days to prepare for the audit. It is advisable to contact a qualified attorney to assist you with this preparation.

Arrest warrant. An agent may have a warrant to arrest a person who is in the U.S. illegally and has committed a felony. In this case, you should discreetly cooperate with the agent with as little fanfare as possible. If ICE believes the person is armed and dangerous, he/she may enter your property without seeking permission or even notifying you.

Search warrant. The ICE or another federal or state agency may obtain an administrative search warrant based on probable cause of illegal activity. You should obtain a business card and a copy of the warrant, read the warrant, and allow the agency or person specified in the warrant to conduct the actions specified. Do not allow agents from other agencies to enter the property, unless they have their own warrant. Get the business card of every person who enters your property. As soon as you have read the warrant, contact your attorney.

What should you tell your workers?

Workers must be instructed that they should not run, that the safest place for them is at work, and that they may not grant permission for any government agent to enter your property. Crew leaders and workers should be prepared to give the name and phone number of the person or persons you have designated to work with state or federal agents who seek access to your property.

The ICE agents may question any individual, and they have discretion to detain a person they encounter in a public place if the person he/she encounters lacks the legal right to be here, regardless of whether such person is the suspect being sought in connection with criminal activity. On the other hand, if workers remain within the confines of a private building or business, ICE may only detain the individual specified in an arrest warrant. Workers should always carry valid identification and should be prepared to identify themselves to any law enforcement official.

Workplace procedures

Develop a clear company policy regarding who can grant access to your property and post signs directing visitors to report to the office. If you are confronted with an agent seeking access to your business, try to find out the purpose of the visit, obtain a business card, and determine which of the 3 circumstances from above (audit, arrest warrant, or search warrant) applies.

If you discover an agent on your property, identify the agent, politely ascertain his/her business, and ask to see any warrant. If the agent does not produce a warrant, inform him/her that you have not granted permission to enter, invite him/her to make an appointment, and ask him/her to leave. Contact your attorney or county sheriff to report the incident.

The MAAHS is a unique non-profit consortium of associations, organizations, and employers organized to create widespread human resource management strengths in Mid American agricultural and horticultural businesses. One of the methods is to serve as a resource for a wide array of human resource issues through newsletters, manuals, a web site, phone consultation and workshops. Contact MAAHS at 614-246-8286, labor@ofbf.org, or www.midamservices.org to become an employer member. You may subscribe to MAAHS' free e-newsletter by visiting www.midamservices.org and clicking the "Join Our FREE Email List" button.