Immigration compliance issues frequently make front-page news. Agriculture has not been immune from immigration scrutiny. This year, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted audits at dairies in several states. Many also remember that in late 2006, ICE raids occurred at six slaughter plants in six states.
Whether an ICE audit or raid occurs at a traditional agriculture business such as a dairy or produce farm or at an urban business, the impacts can cripple a business. In animal agriculture, if employees are lost or quit out of fear, it might be difficult in the short-term to take proper care of the animals. For produce farms and fruit orchards, crops might rot in the field when insufficient numbers of workers are available. No matter the type, the long-term viability of the business may be impacted by the loss in revenues from losing employees that are not in compliance with immigration laws. In addition, if the business is found to have hired illegal workers, legal fees, fines and prison time could threaten its survival.
The key to surviving an immigration compliance raid or audit is to be prepared for such an incident. Preparation is the best course of action for both employers and employees. One way to prepare for either an audit or a raid is to conduct an internal audit through an outside human resource consultant or an attorney. These internal audits review information and check compliance just as an ICE audit would do. Employers can take corrective action for any irregularities found during the internal audit.
Whether facing an audit or a raid, it is essential for an employer to:
- Understand his or her rights
- Never alter or destroy any documents
- Never be disrespectful to the agents
- Immediately contact counsel
- Provide employees training regarding business protocols to follow if an audit or raid occurs.
For a more detailed discussion of ICE raids and audits and how they differ, download the publication “The Difference between an ICE Raid and an ICE Audit: Are You Prepared?” from the AgriLife Bookstore here.
This article appears in the October / November issue of the Texas Association of Dairymen’s newsletter and is presented here with permission. This information is for educational purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. If you have any questions about employment issues, consult an attorney licensed in your state regarding your specific situation.