DHS to Stop Workplace Immigration Raids

Focus to shift toward ‘exploitative employers’

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer October 14, 2021
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arresting an undocumented immigrant

​The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will put an end to mass immigration enforcement operations at worksites, a mechanism used by the Trump administration.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo issued Oct. 12, "Under the previous administration, these resource-intensive operations resulted in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers and were used as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers' assertion of labor laws."

Mayorkas has instead instructed the immigration agencies under DHS to develop proposals offering deportation protection to undocumented workers who report their employers for labor abuses.

"This does not mean employers no longer need to complete those pesky I-9s," said Andrew Wilson, a partner at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman and co-leader of the firm's Immigration Practice in Buffalo, N.Y. "And no, this does not mean that worksite enforcement is no longer an important policy goal of the DHS. Thorough compliance procedures are still important. For the time being, however, it does mean that the DHS no longer views mass worksite enforcement raids as an effective measure in combatting illegal employment."

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other sources to provide context.

History of Reversals

Workplace raids were a hallmark of both the Trump administration and the George W. Bush administration, which attempted to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Obama administration, which also tried to pass an immigration overhaul, prioritized paperwork audits of employee files rather than conduct immigration roundups.

(The New York Times)

Few Employers Charged with Illegal Hiring

Data shows that criminal prosecutions of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers are rare, and most that are convicted receive little more than token punishment.

(SHRM Online)

'Constructive Knowledge' of Unlawful Employment

Having "constructive knowledge" of an employee's unauthorized work status is a serious violation, but defining constructive knowledge can be tricky for HR professionals.

(SHRM Online)

How to Prepare for Workplace Immigration Audits

Employers can avoid big fines by developing a comprehensive I-9 compliance program, which should include training, self-audits and an investigation-day action plan.

(SHRM Online)

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