Immigration-Enforcement Preparedness: Is Your Business Ready?

Editor’s Note: today’s blog is courtesy of Angelo Paparelli of Seyfarth Shaw LLP].

[Y]ou have to be prepared at any moment to face difficulties and even dangers by knowing what to do and how to do it. Agnes and Robert Baden-Powell, How Girls Can Help to Build Up the Empire

Be Prepared in [m]ind . . . by having thought out beforehand any . . . situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it. Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys – Campfire Yarn No. 3 – Becoming a Scout

Excerpts from the Scout Motto: “Be Prepared.”

When immigration-beat writers for the Sentinels of the Left and Right, the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal, report on a new trend in government enforcement actions against employers, prudent businesses must take note. The NYT’s Julia Preston reports: “The Obama administration has replaced immigration raids at factories and farms with a quieter enforcement strategy: sending federal agents to scour companies’ records for illegal immigrant workers.” In a similar vein, Miriam Jordan of the WSJ writes: “Even as the Obama administration cracks down on companies that hire illegal immigrants, it is simultaneously going after employers that it says go too far in vetting job applicants to ensure they are entitled to work in the U.S.” The truth is many U.S. employers are as eager to think about immigration audits as are politicians thrilled to be You Tubed during a lurid escapade in the Red Light District. When it comes to U.S. immigration enforcement trends, however, “struthiousness” is downright reckless. (No, that’s not a word coined by Stephen Colbert, but rather an obscure noun meaning ostrich-like behavior — averting one’s eyes from a clear and present danger and pretending it’s not there.) As my colleague, Nici Kersey, and I note in our recent AILA Annual Conference article (”No Skating on Thin ICE: Using Enforcement Preparedness Policies to Prevent Drowning in Frigid Immigration Waters“), readiness for the immigration agents’ knocks on the door is essential. The threat stems not merely from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), but also from an array of ALL-CAPS federal agencies that enforce immigration regulations governing the worksite: The OSC (the DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration-Related Employment Practices), FDNS (the USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security division within DHS), and the DOL’s OFCCP (Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs) and WHD (not to be confused with WMD or WD-40 — it’s the Wage and Hour Division). As the article explains, immigration-enforcement preparedness must involve not just HR and the office of general counsel. Rather, it requires a host of additional corporate players: Occupants of the “C” Suite (the CEO, COO, CFO, CIO and others), the messengers (corporate communications), the internal enforcers and protectors (corporate compliance and corporate security), the greeters (the receptionists), and of course, foreign workers (whether employed by the corporation or by its vendors) and your immigration counsel, to name a few. Readiness is also about checklists, protocols, data collection (the required immigration paperwork and related personnel, payroll and tax information), internal compliance audits and practice drills. Immigration preparedness involves strategic choices and business judgments that must mesh with the company’s corporate ethos and culture. All of this preparation takes time. Forewarned is forearmed. Be good Scouts