Immigration Attorney to Farmers: Be Prepared

By Deana Stroisch, FarmWeek

Lawyer offers nine recommendations for if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement visits your farm.

Farmers should be prepared for increased immigration enforcement and worksite audits, an immigration attorney with Fragomen Worldwide (provides immigration services globally in coordination with its affiliates around the world) advises.

“Developing that company action plan and having a discussion with your management and with your employees on the ground as to what they should do if the government comes knocking on your door is important,” said Anna Morzy, a partner with Fragomen Worldwide.

Does your staff know how to reach you in case of emergency? Do you have an attorney?

Morzy spoke during an hourlong webinar sponsored by Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and Fragomen.

Within his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump issued a number of executive orders centered on immigration – from increasing border security to ending federal funding for Sanctuary Cities. Different agencies, at various levels of the government, including Homeland Security, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice, now have higher authority to conduct audits and raids, Morzy said.

Her law firm has heard that the government has conducted more I-9 investigations with employers being asked to provide copies of employees’ I-9 tax forms. Form I-9 must be completed for all new hires working in the United States, including temporary or part-time workers. The forms must be kept for three years after an employees’ start date or one year after termination, whichever is later. She strongly recommended farmers conduct an internal audit of their I-9 forms.

“The President has said the Department of Labor should be the watchdog for American jobs,” Morzy said. “Be aware that DOL is taking a much stricter role in assuring that all employees, including those sponsored on visas as well as American workers are being paid the appropriate wage.”

Morzy gave the following recommendations if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) visits:

1. Get the identification of the investigators.

2. Find out why investigators are there – audit or raid? Employers have up to 72 hours to respond to an audit, she said. During a raid, officers can go in immediately with a warrant. 

3. If a search warrant is issued, keep a copy of it and cooperate within its terms. “A search warrant doesn’t necessarily give the government access to every single document or facility that you have,” Morzy said. “Making sure that that search warrant is read and understanding what it’s about is very key.”

4. Contact your attorney as soon as possible. Don’t answer questions of officers unless your attorney approves.

5. Accompany ICE investigators at all times.

6. Have someone take detailed notes of all discussions.

7. Only let ICE have access to documents to which they are entitled. Make copies of all documents before they are removed.

8. Don’t interfere with or impede efforts of ICE officers.

9. Do not sign anything.

The employees have the right to remain silent and to speak with a lawyer. She suggested employees have their valid immigration documentation in their possession at all times.