What do you do if U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement comes knocking on your door?
Be polite but firm, advises Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, an organization representing agricultural employers on labor relations issues. "Remember, you do have some rights, but if you go toe to toe with ICE agents, it probably won’t work out real well for you," he said during the Northwest Cherry Institute annual meeting in Yakima, Washington.
"Be aware of the fine line between asserting your rights and obstruction," Gempler said. "The agents may try to convince you that you’re obstructing justice, but you do have rights."
Although he doesn’t anticipate there will be ICE raids in the coming season, agents have been serving warrants on individuals and use such visits to check the legal status of others in the area. "It has the same effect as a raid."
Raids have become a part of agriculture’s world, he noted, adding that growers must be prepared. Whether enforcement activities will continue under the new administration is unknown.
Gempler outlined the following steps for growers and packing house operators to follow if ICE agents visit them:
1. Be polite but firm.
2. Call your attorney immediately and ask him or her to come and assist you.
3. Determine if ICE has a search warrant.
4. If a search warrant is in hand, read it: What part of the farm or packing house is denoted? Is the warrant signed and dated with a specified time?
5. Politely, but firmly limit the search to that part of your property listed on the warrant. If ICE asks to search parts of your property not listed, say that your attorney has advised you not to allow the search.
6. If agents enter an area under lock that is specified on the warrant, unlock it and allow entry. If the area is not specified on the warrant and they insist on entering, they should be told that they are entering without permission and that secondary steps will be taken. "You don’t want to be involved with any physical resistance to federal agents," Gempler warned, adding that steps can be taken later.
7. Obtain names of the ICE supervising agent and names of all those present. Obtain the name of the attorney general assigned to the case.
8. Assign someone from your company to go with the agent during the search warrant visit.
9. Videotape the event. If videotaping is not possible, take notes of what the agents do and say, including any items that are seized.
10. Counsel your employees not to talk to ICE agents, give statements, or allow themselves to be interrogated.
11. Do not block or interfere with the search.
12. Do not, under any circumstances, assist employees in escaping or by warning of an ICE visit.
13. Do not provide false or misleading information.
ICE is allowed to temporarily detain people to check their immigration status, but that doesn’t mean all day. They have no right to detain beyond a few hours.