From the farm to the table, immigrants feed Americans. Many of the immigrants who grow, prepare, and serve our food also happen to be without lawful immigrant status. According to a 2016 Pew report, undocumented folk make up 17% of the agriculture and 9% of the hospitality labor forces.

Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies put restaurants in a precarious position: fire undocumented staff or risk an ICE raid. This is troubling on several levels: the food service industry is facing a severe labor shortage and no one wants to terminated trusted employees anyway. Restaurants have high turnover rates, tight margins, and physically demanding work –– so it’s no wonder some will hire people without closely examining their immigration status.

Immigration raids are in full swing under the Trump administration. Businesses risk fines if caught; workers risk deportation. To get a feel for what that means for restaurant owners and their undocumented staff, we recommend checking out this NPR interview.

Here are some tips on what to do during a workplace raid:

Employer rights during an ICE Raid 

If you employ a large number of non-U.S. citizens, you should seek the advice of an immigration attorney and make an action plan in case of an unannounced ICE worksite raid, which could occur due to any type of lead or complaint. Discuss your action plan with the receptionist or whoever is most likely to be the first point of contact if ICE agents enter the building.

If ICE shows up at your worksite:

  • Call your lawyer right away; a company representative can explain to officers that it is the company policy to call your lawyer. Your lawyer may be able to help by speaking to ICE agents over the phone or possibly even coming to your worksite. 
  • ICE agents can freely enter public spaces, but a search warrant or your consent is required to enter private spaces such as back rooms, offices, and locked spaces.
    • If they present a search warrant, make sure it is signed and dated by a judge. Verify that the parameters set up in the search warrant are being followed, such as the time frame for the search to be conducted within, the description of the premises to be searched, and a list of items to be seized (oftentimes these include things like payroll records and employee identification documents). 
    • If you would like to later challenge the search, your company should state that you do not consent to the search, even if they have a valid warrant and are able to proceed.
  • ICE may demand that equipment be shut down, that everyone stay on the premises, and that employees gather into a contained area for questioning.
  • Take note of the name of the supervising agent and the name of the U.S. attorney assigned to the case. 
  • Ensure that all ICE agents are being supervised by company representatives at all times; employees are allowed to take notes and/or record videos of the officer. 
  • Keep track of seized items and ask to make copies before they are taken. If agents deny these requests, you’ll be able to request copies later. Agents are also required to provide you with a list of the seized items. 
  • Do not block or interfere with the search, provided that a valid warrant is presented. 
  • If agents begin searching beyond the limits of their given scope, such as seizing documents not listed on the warrant, let them know of your objections, but don’t engage in a prolonged argument about it. 
  • Request that you be allowed to speak to your attorney before agents seize any attorney-client privileged material; however, agents may insist, in which case you can’t stop them, but continue to record your objection and note which documents were taken. 
  • Company representatives should not be questioned or give any statements to ICE agents before speaking to an attorney. 
  • Ask ICE agents if your employees are free to leave. 
  • Do not hide employees, help them sneak away, provide false information, secretly dispose of documents, or lie about the presence of named employees. 
  • Rather than telling your employees to refuse to speak to agents, simply tell them that they have the choice between remaining silent or speaking with ICE agents. 
  • In the case of prolonged inspections, make sure to keep in mind the needs of your employees and advocate for them to ICE agents. Make sure employees are able to have any medical needs taken care of, have had the chance to eat and drink water within a reasonable time, and are able to make arrangements for children or family who are waiting to be picked up. 
  • If your employees are taken into custody, make sure that someone contacts their families and be sure that you pay employees any money they are owed.

Remind your employees about their rights:

  • They have the right to remain silent. 
    • If they choose to do so, they should say so out loud and/or show a “know-your-rights” card to the officer. 
    • They may refuse to show identity documents, but should not lie or show false documents. 
    • If officers address the group and order employees to stand in groups according to immigration status, they can move to an area that does not represent a particular status or not move at all. 
  • They have the right to speak to a lawyer if taken into custody.
    • If they already have a lawyer, they can let the officer know that they would like to speak with their lawyer. (They can provide their Form G-28 if readily available).
    • If they do not have a lawyer, they can tell the officer that they’d like to speak with one. Agents can provide a list of pro bono lawyers or they can contact their consulate for help finding a lawyer.
    • If they are detained by ICE or Border Patrol, the government is not obligated to provide them with a lawyer. 

Employees’ rights during an ICE Raid

Even if you are undocumented, living in the United States provides you with some important U.S. Constitutional rights. 

ICE Agents must have a valid search warrant or the consent of your employer to enter non-public work areas. If you are undocumented and ICE appears in your workplace:

  • Do not panic and run. If you feel unsafe and you want to leave, walk towards the exit calmly. You may be stopped; if you are, ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says you are not, do not try to leave anyway. 
  • You have the right to remain silent. 
    • If you choose to do so, you should say so out loud and/or show a “know-your-rights” card to the officer. 
    • You may refuse to show identity documents, but do not lie or show false documents. 
    • If officers address the group and order you to stand in groups according to immigration status, move to an area that does not represent a particular status or do not move at all. 
  • You have the right to speak to a lawyer if taken into custody.
    • If you already have a lawyer, let the officer know that you would like to speak with your lawyer. (You can provide your Form G-28 if readily available).
    • If you do not have a lawyer, you can tell the officer that you’d like to speak with one. They can provide a list of pro bono lawyers or you can contact your consulate for help finding a lawyer.
    • If you are detained by ICE or Border Patrol, the government is not obligated to provide you with a lawyer. If you are arrested by the police, the government is obligated to provide you with a lawyer.
    • Police are not allowed to listen to any phone calls between you and your lawyer.
    • You have the right to refuse to sign any paperwork until after you’ve spoken with a lawyer; if you choose to sign something without speaking with a lawyer, be 100% sure that you understand exactly what you are signing. 
    • You have the right to have a lawyer present at any immigration hearing before a judge. 
  • If you believe your rights were not respected:
    • Try your best to remember and take note of officer names, badge numbers, patrol car numbers, or any other details that could be of use for filing a complaint in the future. 
    • If you have any injuries, take pictures and seek professional medical attention.