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Immigration audits and your company: Know how to act

In the current political atmosphere, both large and small companies have reason to fear an audit of their employee rosters by the authorities at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some very well-known companies around the country have already fallen victim to the heightened level of enforcement of the rules -- to their detriment.

Experts are recommending that companies be proactive to head ICE off before you're subject to a random audit -- which can take place with all the abruptness of a raid if ICE has a warrant. That means:

Have a plan in place

Get your executives and managers together and discuss what could happen. Then, for every scenario you imagine, decide how you want to respond. Who does what? Who do you call? How do you want employees to respond? Once you have a company-wide plan in place, rehearse the drill with employees. Make sure that you have clearly-designated "for employees only" areas because ICE agents can't cross those barriers without permission. That alone can protect your employees -- and your company -- if agents are at the doors.

Keep employees informed

Tell your employees that they're legally permitted to bar ICE agents from entering the premises unless they have a warrant. Authorize all your employees to do so. Instruct them to tell agents -- loudly -- that they aren't permitted to enter the company's private spaces without your employer's permission. Explain that they should say nothing else to agents -- especially if they are immigrants -- and provide them with information about attorneys and organizations that can help if ICE comes calling.

Prep for an audit

ICE agents do have the right to enter the areas of your company that are open to the public, like the front office or lobby. They can also perform an audit of your I-9 forms, which you're required to have in order to document your workers' identities and legal right to employment. Keep the I-9 forms for at least three years following an employee's final date of employment and have them ready to hand over.

If you are audited, let your employees know what's happening immediately. If an employee needs to leave, let him or her go and arrange to pay any wages due at a later date. That's the best possible balancing act between protecting your employees and protecting your business from ICE.

Source: Entrepreneur, "ICE Audit: Are You and Your Employees at Risk?," Jonathan Small, accessed April 20, 2018

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