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ICE Raids Continue, When Will They Hit Northeast?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are continuing with the latest being a grocery store in San Diego, California and a factory in Sanford, North Carolina.

In the latest raid or “Judicial Warrant Enforcement Action” as ICE refers to them, 26 employees at Zion Market, a popular Korean grocery store, were taken into custody by ICE for failure to have valid work authorization. At the same time, ICE agents executed a federal search warrant at the business.

Prior to the raid, ICE served a Notice of Inspection on Zion Market in order to audit the company’s I-9 forms. Apparently, the audit led ICE to believe there were criminal violations occurring at the market. The raid was the culmination of an investigation, which began with a Notice of Inspection to audit the company’s I-9 forms.

David Shaw, the Homeland Securities Investigation (HSI) of ICE special agent in charge for San Diego, said the target of the investigation was the employer and not the employees. “Honestly, if we didn’t encounter any employees, it wouldn’t make a difference for our case,” said Shaw. “Our case is based on the employer.” “Worksite enforcement operations and investigations are important for strengthening public safety and national security, while eliminating worker exploitation, child labor and other illegal practice within the workforce,” said Shaw.

The first ICE raid of a worksite in 2019 was in early February 2019, when ICE agents raided and detained 27 undocumented workers at Bear Creek Arsenal, a gun-manufacturing company in Sanford, North Carolina. Of the 27 undocumented workers detained, 25 face criminal charges and two face civil immigration violations – meaning deportation. ICE launched their investigation of Bear Creek Arsenal in March 2018. At that time, ICE audited 200 Form I-9s and found evidence workers were using fraudulent forms of government-issued identification, including fake Social Security numbers, to obtain work.

Sean Gallagher, an ICE spokesperson, said raids in North Carolina will become a more common practice because of the policies by county sheriffs. “I would say the new normal is you’ll see a more visible ICE presence out there in the communities. This is the direct conclusion of dangerous policies of not cooperating with ICE. This forces my officers to go out onto the street to conduct more enforcement,” said Gallagher.

In December 2018, two of North Carolina’s most populous counties, Mecklenburg and Wake, ended the 287(g) program, which allowed local deputies to check a federal database to see if any inmates are undocumented. If they are, police hold them for a period of time for ICE to be able to pick them up and place in ICE detention facilities.

In 2018, ICE conducted about 15 raids in Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Minnesota, and Nebraska. All had been quiet with ICE raids since August 2018 when ICE raided Load Trail LLC in Sumner, Texas.

If you want to know more information on methods to defend yourself from workplace raids and other issues involving 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.

Bruce Buchanan is a Partner at Sebelist Buchanan PLLC.  Mr. Buchanan is admitted to practice in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas, and before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and D.C. Circuit.