Last week I received an urgent phone call from a manager at a small care-giving facility asking to see me as soon as possible. Noting her apparent distress I asked why she was in such a panic and she responded by saying, "12 uniformed ICE Agents raided our office this morning, seized our computers and records and arrested the owners, Mr. O'Reilly I don't know what to do!" I told her to come and see me immediately.
Subsequent to that phone conversation I met with some of the employees and discussed the events of the raid, reviewed the complaint with ICE Agents and the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case. The information I have gathered is somewhat shocking and should serve as a wake-up call for all employers, especially the owners and operators of care-giving facilities as they now appear to be a target.
Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agents or ICE first became aware of the care-giving facility because two former employees, who may have been undocumented, applied for unemployment benefits. The problem was the facility never paid such insurance. The follow up to these claims by the EDD led to the discovery that for three years the facility not only failed to pay unemployment and disability insurance but personal income taxes income taxes as well.
This investigation by the EDD led to a tip for their counterparts at ICE. With the information gathered from the unemployment claim, ICE agents contacted the two former employees and used them as confidential informants. What followed may sound like an investigation usually reserved for terrorist but in fact was conducted on this small care-giving facility.
Over the next month or so ICE Agents used those two confidential informants to record a series of conversations in what is now alleged as the owners discussing the unlawful status of their employees, illegal methods in obtaining lawful status and the exchange of money to make it happen.
Additionally, it is now known that ICE Agents conducted surveillance of the various office staff in their daily activities for over a month including following specific employees on their daily routine and taking photos. ICE Agents also ran name checks of known employees against various databases including DMV, INS and IRS. With these searches employees that were undocumented or had previous deportations were identified.
ICE Agents even reviewed the immigration files of those who were in legal status looking for information that would suggest any type of fraud in the application and, according to the complaint, were successful in discovering some who engaged in marriage fraud.
Lives have now been shattered, people will be prosecuted, employees will lose their jobs and some will be deported. So what is to be learned?
First, employers know and comply with the law. No short cuts.
Second, decide now that you will run an operation completely legal including the immigration status of your staff.
Third, do not play games with basic requirements of running a business it will catch up to you.
Fourth, never encourage any person to subvert the laws in order to further your own business.
No amount of good will trying to help your fellow countrymen is worth going to jail or being deported. There are ways to conduct your business in an honest and ethical manner and still be profitable. If there are potential employees you would like to hire but they have immigration issues tell them to see an attorney before you hire.
In light of the various raids employers must now more than ever consult an immigration attorney on how you can make sure your business is in full compliance with the law because you never know who is watching or listening and it's the right things to do.