- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 680 mostly Latino workers in seven Mississippi chicken-processing plants on Wednesday, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. The raid, which is being called the largest in a decade, was planned months ago, ICE's acting director Matthew Albence told AP.
- The AP identified some of the workplaces raided as Koch Foods Inc., Peco Foods Inc., PH Food Inc., MP Food Inc., and Pearl River Foods Inc. Albence told AP that each company could be charged and will face scrutiny for potential tax, wage and document fraud.
- A Peco spokesperson released a statement, according multiple media reports: "We are fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation and are navigating a potential disruption of operations." The spokesperson added that Peco uses E-Verify to screen new hires for their immigration status.
In October 2017, ICE officials promised to "quadruple" workplace investigations, and by May 2018, the agency announced that it had already "doubled" the amount of ongoing worksite cases compared to the previous fiscal year. Workplace investigations have resumed under President Donald Trump's administration after former President Barack Obama's administration largely avoided them in favor of audits, AP reported, but the high cost in time and resources makes major raids rare.
The raids have earned some amount of media and court attention. A class action lawsuit filed in Tennessee charged ICE with treating white employees differently from Latino employees during a raid on a meatpacking plant there. While rounding up workers, 10 of whom were accused of violations, ICE agents allegedly targeted only Latino workers, while leaving white workers alone.
HR can't control how a raid is carried out, but it can prepare a workplace in how to handle a site visit. Workers should be trained on what to do if there's an investigation, including what to say and whom to contact. Curtis Chow, a shareholder at Ogletree Deakins, recommended in a blog post that employers designate an immigration compliance officer to act as the contact point person if a worksite raid occurs.
Properly filing I-9 forms is also a key compliance challenge for employers. Employers should start the I-9 process after a job offer is accepted, not before, experts previously told HR Dive, and employers should be keenly aware of the list of documents that are considered acceptable documentation. One expert noted that employers could conduct annual I-9 self-audits, particularly if their turnover is high.