By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

In a surprise to no one, the Department of Homeland Security announced on October 12, 2021 that it was ending Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite raids (or as they refer to them - mass worksite operations). In the first nine months of the Biden Administration, there had not been any ICE worksite raids.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated:
The deployment of mass work site operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country's unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers. These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations. Moreover, such operations are inconsistent with the Department's September 30, 2021 Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law and the individualized assessment they require. Given these concerns, please ensure we no longer conduct mass worksite operations and instead refocus our workplace enforcement efforts to better accomplish the goals outlined above.
Furthermore, Secretary Mayorkas stated:
Our worksite enforcement efforts can have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals and the fairness of the labor market. Our accomplishments in this area make clear that we can maximize the impact of our efforts by focusing on unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers. These employers engage in illegal acts ranging from the payment of substandard wages to imposing unsafe working conditions and facilitating human trafficking and child exploitation. Their culpability compels the intense focus of our enforcement resources.

As the ICE worksite raids are ending, let’s briefly look back at the recent history of these actions. In the George W. Bush Administration, ICE conducted a number of worksite raids. The last two raids were at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa in May 2008 and Howard Industries in Laurel, Mississippi in August 2008. After the Laurel raid, ICE stopped conducting raids, presumably due to the high cost of the raids and the difficulty in conducting a surprise raid. The Obama Administration did not conduct any worksite enforcement raids during its eight years in office.

However, to no one’s surprise, the Trump Administration resumed ICE worksite raids on April 5, 2018, at Southeastern Provisions, a slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee. (Interestingly, I was aware of an ICE “operation” set to occur in east Tennessee on that date because I was the organizer of a seminar for that date, where an ICE official from Nashville, Tennessee was scheduled to speak. However, he cancelled about a week or two in advance and told me he would be heading up an ICE operation in east Tennessee on that date. So, I spoke in his place on that date and literally during this time the first news reports came out of the raid.)

After the Bean Station raid, ICE raided numerous employers in 2018 and 2019, including Zion Market grocery store in San Diego; Bear Creek Arsenal factory in Sanford, North Carolina; Load Trail LLC factory in Sumner, Texas; four facilities of Fresh Mark, a large meat supplier, in Salem, Massillon, and Canton, Ohio; numerous farms in Minnesota and Nebraska; CVE Technology Group, and Allen, Texas electronics repair company; and seven chicken processing plants near Jackson, Mississippi.

For unscrupulous employers, the end of ICE worksite raids is good news. However, that doesn’t mean ICE won’t be investigating employers. ICE plans to continue other enforcement actions, including Notices of Inspections (NOIs) or more commonly referred to as ICE I-9 audits.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.