ICE Executes Search Warrants at Agricultural Processing Plants in Mississippi and Detains 680 Workers

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On August 7, 2019, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the federal agency enforcing laws governing American border control – announced that ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed multiple federal criminal search warrants at seven agricultural processing plants in Mississippi as part of an ongoing worksite enforcement criminal investigation, according to a news release from ICE.

In addition, deportation officers with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in partnership with HSI detained approximately 680 removable aliens who were unlawfully working at the plants. A 24-hour toll-free hotline in English and Spanish is available for family members of those arrested to address questions about their location, status, and the removal process. The phone number is 1-855-479-0502.

HSI’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor, alien smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, document fraud, and/or substandard working conditions. In addition to worksite enforcement operations, HSI also uses Form I-9 audits to create a culture of compliance among employers. In July 2018, ICE announced a two-phase operation under this effort.

Form I-9 audits and worksite arrests by ICE surged in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. In FY 2018, ICE opened 6,848 worksite investigations compared to 1,691 in FY 2017, initiated 5,981 Form I-9 audits compared to 1,360 in FY 2017, and made 2,304 worksite-related arrests compared to 311 in FY 2017. The investigations, Form I-9 audits, and worksite-related arrests surged by 300 to 750 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Businesses were ordered to pay more $10.2 million in judicial fines, forfeitures, and restitutions in FY 2018 including a Texas business that forfeited more than $5.5 million and an Oklahoma business that agreed to pay more than $1 million. In FY 2017, there were $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines, and restitution, including one company that paid the largest fine ever levied in an immigration case.

ICE is responsible for upholding laws established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) which requires all employers in the United States to verify the identity and work eligibility of employees they hire through the use of the ‘Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.’ ICE uses the Form I-9 inspection program and civil fines to encourage employers to comply with the IRCA.

The trend of worksite Form I-9 audits continuing to rise for employers and the possibility of legislation passing to require mandatory use of the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility system has been chosen by Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) as one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2019 that feature emerging and influential trends in the background screening industry.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks – offers a robust Form I-9 and E-Verify solution that simplifies the process of verifying employment eligibility and capturing required information to help employers maintain a legal workforce. To learn more about Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions from ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Form-I-9-E-Verify/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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