Worksite Immigration Raids
Last updated JANUARY 2020
Through its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts worksite immigration enforcement activities. Worksite raids are its most visible and harmful enforcement tactic.
During a raid, immigration agents physically invade a workplace, unannounced and with militaristic force, to target workers for arrest and deportation. Agents seal off the workplace’s exits and make arrests, detaining workers and sending them to remote detention centers without warning. Since 2017, worksite raids have resulted in the arrest of more than 1,800 workers. Below are (1) an interactive map that tracks and geographically depicts worksite raids as well as a graph that shows how raids-related arrests have increased over time, (2) information and background about worksite raids, and (3) resources for workers, communities, and employers who may be impacted by raids.
Mapping ICE/HSI Worksite Raids under the Trump Administration
As shown above, under the Trump administration worksite raids have been carried out from coast to coast but concentrated in the Southeast and Midwest. To date, workplaces and communities in Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington have been impacted by raids. The most frequent targets have been workers employed in manufacturing and meat/poultry processing industries.
Under the Trump administration, worksite raids have increased in frequency and numbers of arrests over time. These raids began shortly after the president took office in January 2017. In February of that year, a set of coordinated actions targeted multiple Asian restaurants in the Jackson, Mississippi, metropolitan area.
By April 2018, a worksite raid at Southeastern Provision, a meat processing facility in eastern Tennessee, became the largest ICE raid in a decade, with approximately 100 arrests. The National Immigration Law Center and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of workers detained in that raid, alleging racial profiling and unlawful arrests.
During the summer of 2018, ICE conducted multiple raids, including large-scale ones in Ohio and Texas, each resulting in more than 100 arrests. Near the one-year anniversary of the raid in Tennessee, ICE agents arrested 284 workers during a raid on an electronics refurbisher in Allen, Texas. A few months later, raids on a series of poultry processing facilities in Mississippi comprised the largest single-state operation in ICE’s history, detaining nearly 700 workers. The raids and arrests and their ripple effects have engendered fear in immigrant communities throughout the country.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) created, for the first time in U.S. history, sanctions against employers for hiring non–U.S. citizens who aren’t authorized to be employed in the U.S. In theory, IRCA was designed to hold employers accountable for violating immigration law. In practice, however, workplace raids have served primarily to terrorize workers and their communities, with minimal consequences for employers.
Worksite raids tend to target people working in low-wage jobs in small towns and are devastating for local communities. Researchers and journalists have documented how these raids terrorize and traumatize workers and their children and families, as well as how disruptive they are to local economies. During raids and in their aftermath, government agents routinely violate workers’ rights and dignity: Workers are racially profiled; subjected to invasive and unlawful searches; denied medical treatment; harassed, intimidated, and subjected to other forms of gratuitous violence; and separated from their families.
Ultimately, these raids and similar enforcement activity contribute to making all workers — particularly low-income workers — more vulnerable to unfair and illegal treatment by employers. Federal funding for immigration enforcement is now eleven times greater than funding to enforce federal labor standards at millions of workplaces across the country. This discrepancy in priorities leaves workers increasingly vulnerable to wage theft, different forms of discrimination, and workplace health and safety violations.
- Funding for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Is Funding for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda – backgrounder on HSI, including its involvement in worksite raids, surveillance of journalists, and practices of racial profiling
- Don’t Be Fooled: Funding for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Is Funding for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda – blog post in NILC’s The Torch
- Worksite Immigration Raids Terrorize Workers and Communities Now, and Their Devastating Consequences Are Long-Term – blog post in NILC’s The Torch
Resources for Workers, Communities, and Employers
- Lessons from East Tennessee: A Toolkit for Organizations Responding to Mass Worksite Immigration Raids
- What to Do if Immigration Comes to Your Workplace – a guide for employers
- Know-Your-Rights Card – printable card available in English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Korean, and Somali
Worksite raid litigation updates
- ICE Raid Violated Tennessee Workers’ Constitutional Rights – information about Zelaya, et al. v. Hammer, et al., the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of workers affected by the April 2018 ICE raid