By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser PC

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Labor (DOL) raided the tortilla factory, La Espiga de Oro, in Houston, Texas in August 2015. They served a criminal search warrant at the business and detained approximately 10 workers from the factory.

Prior Raids Stopped in 2008

2008 was the last year of any significant raids by ICE on employees. In that year, ICE raided a meatpacking plant in Pottsville, Iowa, Howard Industries, Inc. in Laurel, Mississippi, and Action Rags USA, a second-hand clothing company, in Houston, Texas. That same year, ICE announced a shift away from sweeping up undocumented workers in high-profile work site enforcement raids. Instead, ICE began a Culture of Compliance, which focused on targeting employers for their hiring practices and proper completion of the I-9 forms. This has forced thousands of U.S. businesses to open up their books to ICE agents and led to the collection of millions of dollars in penalties.

Some Detained Workers Received Employment Authorization

Greg Palmore, a spokesman for ICE, said the La Espiga de Oro raid is part of an ongoing investigation but declined to provide any more details. He said that seven of the 10 detained workers were granted employment authorization, allowing them to legally work here for up to one year because they are “material witnesses.” Palmore stated the immigrants “have to be able to work and survive while we retain them as witnesses.” Three other detainees were not granted work authorization though ICE declined to say why.

Takeaways

Has ICE changed their methods or was this raid just an aberration? Time will tell. I will keep you alerted on this matter.