Legal Aid Spreads Thin as ICE Targets Small Businesses for Large Raids

A pattern has emerged in how the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targets businesses for raids.  In April, ICE arrested 94 workers at a Tennessee meatpacking plant.  Months later, in June, ICE detained 114 workers at an Ohio gardening business. 

Last month, in August, 159 workers at Load Trail, a trailer manufacturing company in Texas, were arrested by ICE agents. According to Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations’ Dallas office, it was “one of the larger worksite enforcement operations conducted at one site in the past 10 years.”

ICE executed a search warrant to uncover illegally employed migrant workers at Load Trail.  During the investigation, allegations came out that Load Trail fraudulently promised visas for workers.

Load Trail issued a statement after the raid, saying “the actions today by the Federal Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency are disappointing, as are the inaccuracies found in most reporting so far.  Though we are surprised by today’s developments, we intend to fully cooperate with the government’s investigation – and to make sure the full and accurate Load Trail story is made known.”

Special Agent Berger indicates that these raids are a future warning to other businesses that knowingly employ undocumented migrant workers, commenting, “[y]ou may have gotten away with it, but we’re watching and we’re coming.”

Thinning Resources for Detainees of ICE’s Raids

Jesse Hahn, a labor and employment attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, describes ICE’s raids as a recent pattern that focuses on vulnerable small businesses: “They focus on small employers in rural communities where they expect to encounter less resistance…”

ICE’s focus on conducting large raids on small businesses results in thinning resources for detainees and their families, such as legal aid services: “Everyone involved will have less access to legal counsel and the ability to fight back,” according to Hahn.

For example, a worker detained by ICE has an average bond of $5,000.  As a result, ICE’s raids have overwhelmed non-profit public service law firms that focus on pro bono advocacy.  With so much pressure on pro bono legal aid firms, it will be difficult for many people who need help navigating the U.S. immigration system to receive proper legal counsel.

As legal aid services scramble to gather resources, families who are too scared to come out in public suffer the hardship of having their households split up.  Many of these families don’t speak English.  The need for effective counsel grows as ICE continues to detain more undocumented migrant workers.

Get Advice from Our Experienced Immigration Attorneys

The U.S. immigration system can be too complex and daunting without legal counsel.  At the Smith Law Offices, LLC, our experienced St. Charles immigration attorneys can guide you through the immigration system and provide zealous advocacy to protect your rights.

If you need help from an experienced St. Charles immigration lawyer, contact Smith Law Offices, LLC online, or call us at (636) 400-1177.

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