In a massive worksite immigration operation early Wednesday, over 600 federal immigration agents converged on seven Mississippi food manufacturing and processing facilities to serve search warrants as part of an ongoing worksite criminal investigation.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized dozens of boxes of business records and arrested 680 individuals who were working unlawfully for the seven companies. While the raids led to the arrests of hundreds, Mike Hurst, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, made clear that the focus of the criminal investigation is on the employers’ immigration compliance practices:
“While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that, first and foremost, we are nation of laws. . . . to those who use illegal aliens for competitive advantage or to make a quick buck, we have something to say to you: If we find that you have violated federal criminal law, we’re coming after you.”
Employers are required to verify the identity and the employment eligibility of hired employees by completing Form I-9 within three business days of hire. A Notice of Inspection is sent to employers that ICE will be auditing their hiring records. If ICE finds any non-compliance, the penalty is civil fines; and if the employers knowingly violate the law, it could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution to result.
Employers are reminded that compliance is critical to taking preventative measures. Moreover, any employer who is served with subpoenas, search warrants, or any other audit requests, is urged to retain competent employer immigration compliance counsel.