ICE Plans a Dramatic Surge in Workplace Raids

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan gave an unofficial talk to the conservative Heritage Foundation. ( In the talk, he said in 2018 ICE will increase workplace enforcement by four or five times over current levels. He also said any employees unlawfully present in the United States who are encountered during the enforcement actions (workplace raids), will be detained and processed for removal.

The Obama administration prioritized abusive employers who exploited workers and/or engaged in other serious criminal activity rather than workers themselves, and conducted workplace raids far less frequently than previous administrations.  Mr. Holman’s statement this week indicates the Trump administration will aggressively target both employers and workers.

Although this is an alarming policy change, ICE is limited by its current financial resources and amount of bed space in jails. The amount of detention space ICE currently has is far less than would be needed for large-scale raids and huge increases in the number of people detained.

The Trump administration is already moving to dramatically increase the amount of detention space. An internal White House memo leaked to the media in April 2017 declared that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had already located 33,000 additional detention spaces.  ICE is seeking 4,000 more detention spaces in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and south Texas, and awarded a $457 million contract to the GEO Group, a company that runs private prisons across the country.

What can we do about this?

It is also of critical importance that we prepare ourselves and our community so we know what to do – and what our rights are – if caught up in a raid.

What is a workplace raid?

A workplace raid is when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes to a business where it believes people are working unlawfully. Since numerous ICE officers are present for these actions, a raid can cause chaos and panic.

Workplace raids are usually unpredictable, but sometimes ICE will give an employer notice. The officers may come with a warrant signed by a judge, or they may simply walk into the business.

ICE officers may ask to speak to one specific person – for example, a manager – just so they will be granted permission to enter the business. They usually claim to be looking for specific individuals, sometimes even claiming that those sought are dangerous criminals. Once inside, however, ICE will question (and potentially detain) everyone present who cannot demonstrate lawful immigration status.

What do I do if ICE comes to my workplace?

It is always important to be prepared and to have a plan in place in case you are present during a workplace raid. Here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Do not run – If you run to try to escape, the immigration officers will see this as you admitting that you have something to hide. Additionally, more ICE officers are usually waiting outside any exits and you will be immediately apprehended.
  2. Do not open the door – Just like if an officer came to your home, you do not have to open the business’s door unless you are in a public place or the officer has a warrant signed by a judge. Your boss may give the officer permission to come into the business.  
  3. Do not show any fake documents and do not lie!
  4. Don’t take your foreign ID with you when you go to work. (i.e. Matricula Consular)
  5. Remember: You have the right to remain silent and to speak with an attorney – Carry a “know your rights” card which you can give to the officers without speaking. Write the name and phone number of your lawyer on that card. If an officer continues to ask you questions, tell them, “I am exercising my right to be silent. I want to talk to my lawyer.”
  6. Do not sign any documents without talking to a lawyer – You are not required to sign any documents from ICE without discussing the consequences with an experienced immigration lawyer.
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What are the rights and responsibilities of my employer?

  1. The National Immigration Law Center’s National Employment Law Project has some suggestions for how employers can prepare for raids:
  2. Make a written plan of action to prepare for a workplace raid.
  3. Provide a “Know Your Rights” training for your employees, which will train staff to:
    • Stay calm and not run away from the officers
    • Not to give ICE officers permission to enter the business unless they have a warrant signed by a judge
    • Stay silent and ask to speak with a lawyer
  4. Provide a list of local immigration lawyers, including low-cost immigration organizations.
  5. Exercise your right as an employer to remain silent and to ask to speak with an attorney.
  6. Clearly mark private areas of your business, such as kitchens, as PRIVATE, and refuse to allow officers into those areas without a warrant signed by a judge.
  7. Connect with an immigration response network in your area, like Alerta Roja in Louisville.