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What Restaurant Owners Need to Know About Immigration Raids

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Having success in the restaurant industry takes an extraordinary amount of determination and hard work. Beyond selling amazing food, balancing new restaurant technology and learning how to navigate a new social media marketing landscape, they also must know their legal rights in case of a visit from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

These visits are conducted by agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division and have a primary task of verifying that employers have updated and completed documentation for all of their workers. Restaurant owners and managers have the difficult task of complying with the law and allowing the ICE agents to conduct their investigation. While members of the staff are highly appreciated and can become close-friends over the years, business owners must comply in order to protect themselves, management and their business.

Was it Something You Did?

Many puzzled restaurant owners will wonder what may have caused their restaurant or business to be singled out for a visit, as it is not particularly a pleasant situation for either parties. The answer is that these visits usually stem from either a customer calling and filing a complaint or reports from former or current disgruntled employees. This will almost always lead to a “raid” which can shut down or severely impact business, and not to mention, pocketbooks. The sooner the investigation can be completed the sooner business can return to normalcy.

There are a few things that need to happen for an investigation to be completed. First, ICE agents must gather all employee hiring and on-boarding documents, these are certified documents that make it clear that employers were aware of their employees’ immigration status at the time of hiring. In certain instances, an employee will receive a letter from social security advising them that their social security number is not valid. If the employer was notified of this and chooses to allow the employment to continue by accepting a new form of identification, he/she may be in big trouble.

What Should You do in the Event of a Raid?

In the event of a raid and especially if a restaurant owner or manager suspect there may have been a violation, contact an attorney. Ideally, the restaurant’s attorney can come to the restaurant and act as a representative during the visit to aid the agents and provide any statements to public or government officials. If the business has an IoT Nest camera integrated, a real-time video of all activities that transpire can be recorded, a request for copies of any seized documents is also allowed. It is advised to not give employees advice on whether they should comply or not, as they can decide on their own, but it should not be directed by management.

In the event that an employee is arrested, they will be taken to a detention center and will not be allowed to keep cell phones with them. Their emergency contact may be notification. Employee wages owed should be paid immediately to the address on file. The willingness to protect, defend or help affected employees should be considered carefully.

After a raid, the restaurant should work with their attorney to come up with a comprehensive plan to be 100% compliant through company policies and procedures. As an additional measure, businesses should also have a contingency plan in case a large portion of their staff is suddenly unavailable to show up for work. In most cases, having a modern business management platform such as a cloud-based POS system can help reorganize tasks and keep the business running smoothly during a staffing crisis.


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