Last Call

Tennessee Grocery Stores, Restaurants, Bars and Hotels Be on the Alert for Immigration Raids

By - March 03, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

Just today, March 3, 2017, we heard from a restaurant that was “inspected” by agents looking for illegal immigrants and asking about proper documentation.  Scary stuff.  We understand that one or more Tennessee ABC agents lead the investigation.

Bone McAllester immigration expert Raquel Bellamy offers these Top 5 Immigration Tips for Employers.

Unauthorized immigration is a hot topic these days. Undocumented immigrants are roughly 5% of the U.S. civilian labor force, as reported by the Pew Research Center.  We suspect that many restaurants, bars and hotels have a much higher percentage of illegals.

Some employees give employers fake documents. Other employers intentionally hire undocumented immigrants, to gain a competitive advantage by offering lower pay and fewer protections. In the most egregious scenarios, employers falsify records and participate in labor trafficking by recruiting and smuggling workers from abroad (a big no no!).

A recent federal immigration executive order deputizes state and local law enforcement authorities to act as ICE agents.  Legally, TABC agents, local police and even beer board inspectors can now search your business for illegal or improperly documented immigrants.

Here are our top five immigration tips for employers:

1. Anticipate increased auditing of records to verify I-9 compliance. Locate and organize your records to avoid costly delays. You should have a completed I-9 for each employee.

2. Prepare for the inevitable by conducting an internal audit, which will help you identify any I-9 compliance issues.

3. Consult a competent employment attorney regarding any potential liability for violations of I-9 regulations.

4. Train front office staff (receptionists, hostesses, etc.) on how to respond to law enforcement officials who enter the premises to inquire about immigration violations. Know your rights to limit access of law enforcement officers.

5. Avoid discrimination based on national origin against potential employees. During the interview phase, limit your inquiry to whether the applicant is authorized to work in the United States and whether the applicant will require sponsorship to obtain work authorization. If an applicant or a current employee is confused about work authorization, you should encourage him/her to seek independent counsel.

6. I know I said 5, but who doesn’t love a bonus? Show compassion for workers who are experiencing personal trauma as a result of the changes in immigration enforcement priorities. Even U.S. citizens may experience a high level of anxiety over the potential impact to their family members and friends. Be mindful of negative interactions between employees. Some of my clients have reported workplace harassment. In one instance, a worker was blackmailed by a co-worker who threatened to call ICE. Employers should be aware of any workplace intimidation and maintain a policy against bullying. Again, regardless of your position on the debate, we are all less safe when pockets of our population are particularly vulnerable.

Ray Stevens controversial tune “Come to the U.S.A.” seems timely:

If you thinkin’ about illegal immigration
Be careful when you’re choosin’ the nation
‘Cause breakin’ the law in some countries is frowned upon.
Imagine that.

In a rare bit of shameless self-promotion, we can help you make sure you are properly documented, in case agents come a knockin’.  Feel free to e-mail us at will@willcheek.com

William T. Cheek III

William T. Cheek III

As the only Tennessee attorney named Best Lawyers in America for Food and Beverage Law, Will Cheek leads firm’s Alcoholic Beverage Team and provides licensing and regulatory compliance advice to restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs, craft distilleries and breweries. Will’s clients range from small chef-owned restaurants to large publicly traded corporations. He is nationally known as the go-to source for Tennessee liquor law and authors the blog Last Call, covering Tennessee alcohol, restaurant and hospitality news.
William T. Cheek III
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