Since mid-June, the White House has been promising massive U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) coordinated immigration raids around the country. The goal: arrest and quickly remove approximately 2,000 recently arrived individuals with deportation orders. This, according to the White House, would serve as a deterrent to others seeking to enter the U.S. unlawfully. The raids were expected to being in earnest on Sunday July 14, 2019.

What happened?

That date has come and gone, without the expected nationwide show of force. There were no large-scale raids with weapons drawn, no helicopters, and no associated big media splash. Various media outlets reported on small-scale ICE enforcement actions and a small number of arrests.

Despite the lack of large-scale enforcement operations, the political and media attention escalated fear among immigrants and in their communities. Scare tactics, whether intended or not, were successful in this measure; however, immigration rights advocacy groups helped counterbalance the fear by educating immigrants on how to handle encounters with ICE.

Enforcement actions are part of ICE’s mission as the immigration law enforcement component of the Department of Homeland Security. This past weekend was simply business as usual for ICE. Small-scale raids will likely continue throughout the week, but, for the same reasons the raids were delayed (logistical hurdles, safety concerns, political pressures, etc.) we are unlikely to see raids on the scale of what was promised.

Ongoing worksite enforcement – part of the smoldering fire behind all the rhetorical smoke?

While the current hot topic is the threatened raids to arrest and remove individuals, employers should not lose focus on the continued rise in worksite enforcement actions. Worksite investigations, I-9 audits, and criminal and administrative workplace arrests all surged by 300 to 750 percent in FY2018 over the previous year. These actions, for the most part, do not draw a lot of media attention (or tweets) but can cost employers millions of dollars in fines and penalties.

In the coming months and years, ICE will continue to focus on worksite enforcement activities. No business is immune and ICE continues to expand its worksite enforcement effort beyond industries that traditionally rely on low-skilled foreign workers to include those that have not previously been investigated or only have a handful of foreign workers.

The media storm over this round of ICE enforcement will blow over, the media will move on, but companies need to remain vigilant.