During the Obama years, the administration would most often try to combat the issue of unauthorized immigration by focusing on the abusive and exploitative employers that would hire undocumented immigrants and pay them less than U.S. citizens. The new administration appears poised to shift course, going as far as possibly re-instituting the dramatic workplace raids that were common during the presidency of George W. Bush. If this comes to pass, and your workplace is targeted, it can make an enormous difference for you to understand your rights—and to understand that everyone has certain rights, even the undocumented.
How Are Employers Punished?
The Obama administration focused on punishing employers for being willing to hire undocumented immigrants. This is, at least in some ways, eminently logical; if there are no opportunities for undocumented workers in the U.S., they will likely not come to seek them. However, the current penalties to employers, at least those assessed if an audit discovers discrepancies in employees’ work papers, are nowhere near stringent enough to warrant much of a reaction from the employers themselves.
Paperwork errors and the initial hiring of an undocumented worker can cost employers no more than a few hundred dollars. Fines can climb into the tens of thousands for repeat offenders, but it is difficult to catch employers. In rare cases, an employer might be barred from soliciting or accepting federal contracts for a certain period of time. Rarely does this approach effectuate any actual change, because there are always more immigrants seeking work than there are positions. Thus, there is no incentive to hire citizens or to not mistreat one’s workers. The new president and his administration have indicated that they see potential workplace raids as a viable tool to help fix the issue.
Know Your Rights
If you are stopped or detained by immigration enforcement at work, you may have slightly different options than someone stopped at home or on the street. If Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) tries to enter your home to detain you, they may only do so if they have a warrant signed by a judge—not an administrative warrant, which will sometimes be held up as if it is a judge’s warrant—unless you invite them inside.
The same is true at a place of business. ICE may not enter without a warrant unless the owner invites them inside. However, if you are an employee, you are usually not an owner who can make such decisions. Running away may not be an option, and in truth, it is generally not a good idea to try and avoid ICE agents as it is often seen as an admission of guilt.
The most important step one can take is to make no statements without an attorney present. Immigration offenses are administrative, rather than criminal, which means you are not entitled to an attorney paid by the government. However, you are free to hire one yourself or to contact a legal aid clinic. You do have the right to remain silent, however, even if you are undocumented, regardless of what ICE workers may tell you. Any statements you make can be used against you because they are treated as admissions. Moreover, these statements can be used as evidence that you are worthy of deportation.
Ask for Legal Help
Workplace raids are exercises of shock and awe, designed to catch people off guard. If you know your rights, it is harder to do this. If you or a loved one have been caught up in a raid on your workplace, consulting an attorney can be critical. The knowledgeable Chicago deportation defense attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help ensure that your rights are respected. Call us today to set up a free consultation.
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