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The New Immigration Policy’s Effects on Immigrants in the Workplace

Following the Executive Orders and corresponding guidelines implemented over the past month by the Trump administration, New Yorkers have seen an increase in the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. The most recent guidelines by the Department of Homeland Security broadened ICE’s priorities to include nearly every undocumented immigrant in the United States, and opened the door for assistance from local law enforcement agencies. While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has clearly stated his opposition to the new policies, at least 40 immigrants across the city have been detained over the past couple of weeks along with hundreds of others country-wide.

But should workers and employers be afraid of immigration enforcement officials visiting their place of business? Experts say it’s possible. For employers, it is likely that the Trump Administration will increase the number of audits of employers' work authorization forms. This documentation, known as I-9 forms, require employers to check the work authorization of every employee hired. All employers must ensure proper completion of I-9 forms for each individual they hire for employment in the U.S., regardless if they are citizens or non-citizens. Penalties imposed on employers for not complying with the I-9 requirements could be in the thousands of dollars per employee.

If ICE agents want to inspect the I-9s, an employer has three days to produce them. Within those three days, affected parties should reach out to an immigration lawyer. Additionally, unless ICE has a judicially enforced warrant, an employer is not obligated to let them on the premises to question their staff members. While this process has been used during the Obama Administration to locate illegal immigrants in the country, the Trump Administration has discussed the possibility of increasing these audits and doubling the fines to ensure employers are complying with the law.

More drastically, it is possible that the administration can continue its enforcement push by implementing “old-style” raids. These raids are highly unpopular amongst employers; however, the new administration has not held back so far. These raids could result in employers losing a large segment of their work force, which could even render some businesses inoperable. Even the threat of such raids can vastly change the operation of many businesses. While it is unclear whether the increase of raids will happen or not, there is definitely a perception of increased enforcement felt by many immigrants and business owners alike.

The impact on employees may be greater than just a fear of ICE coming through the door. The threat of increased immigration enforcement places a great deal of leverage for employers. From an employee’s perspective, there may be an increased fear in bringing complaints to employers because of the possibility of retaliation and deportation. Some employers have taken advantage of this fear and violated minimum wage and other worker requirements. With that being said, there are many anti-retaliation provisions in many laws regulating employment conditions, so employers that do not adhere to the laws will still be liable.

Overall, employers concerned with the new orders and regulations should be proactive and make sure their publicly accessible files for H-1B nonimmigrant visa workers are accurate. They should also be routinely checked to make sure they are up to date in case of an audit. The Trump administration thus far has proven to be an enforcement-minded administration and it is very easy for employers to be caught in the cross-hairs.

For concerned employees, seeking advice from an attorney knowledgeable in immigration law is crucial. An attorney can advise you of your options regarding employment, and recommend a procedure to follow. An attorney knowledgeable in the new policies of the administration will be able to inform you of your rights should you be questioned or detained by immigration enforcement officials.

With immigration policies rapidly changing under President Donald Trump, it is now more important than ever that non-citizens and their loved ones be aware of their rights and legal options. The New York immigration attorneys at Bretz & Coven, LLP have a long history of being passionate, knowledgeable, and honest in their work in providing non-citizens with legal services they can rely on. With two convenient offices located in the tri-state area — New York, New York and Metro Park, New Jersey — the firm's attorneys are available to provide quality legal representation to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania residents on all immigration law matters. To schedule a consultation, call (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form.

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