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Employers could find themselves caught in the middle of a dispute over immigration between the Murphy administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The situation suggests business owners should educate themselves about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to immigration.

The dispute involves Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s rules directing police departments not to assist ICE in civil immigration enforcement efforts and instructing county jails not to honor ICE detention requests that would keep suspects in custody longer than their scheduled release.

ICE has responded by warning that it will likely increase in the number of “large arrests and worksite enforcement operations” as a result. The attorney general is not backing down, so if ICE makes good on its threat, more businesses will get visits from the agency.

The law firm Jackson Lewis has put together a detailed list of what employers can, should and should not do if ICE shows up at their workplace.

ICE inspections are no joke. The law requires employers to produce employee Form I-9s within three business days of an ICE request and can be fined $216 to $2,156 for each form that is not in order. Employers who knowingly hire or continue to employ unlawful workers may receive significantly higher civil fines, and, potentially, be criminally prosecuted, Jackson Lewis says.

In addition, ICE may conduct enforcement raids.

“These actions may seek not only company Form I-9s and other records, but officials also may intend to arrest unlawful employees at the business site,” attorneys Michael Neifach and Amy Peck explain. “In potential criminal cases, ICE also may serve a judicial warrant to search specific areas, and possibly to seize certain records or persons.”

If this happens, Jackson Lewis recommends several steps, including:

  • asking for agents’ names and business cards;
  • transmitting the search warrant to legal counsel;
  • assigning staff to accompany ICE officers and take notes of all actions, but without blocking or interfering with them;
  • informing employees that they have a right to talk with ICE officers or not talk to them if they like;
  • debriefing staff afterward.

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