The raids by ICE last week on 7-Eleven stores nationwide looking for undocumented workers roiled the immigration debate, as it portends a more aggressive government enforcement effort against employers. According to reports, there were several reasons ICE chose to raid 7-Eleven stores.  One was to send a message to employers that the government would now actively pursue them. A second was to send a message to undocumented workers seeking employment that you may well be detained at your workplace. Finally, it sends the message that it may be too dangerous for undocumented workers to even shop at an establishment such as 7-Eleven.

From the compliance perspective, however, there is a response to this shift in ICE enforcement and it relates to the three most important things in any compliance program: document, document, document. Most generally, U.S. immigration law “requires employers only to ensure that documents appear to be valid, and federal law prohibits them from requiring specific types of identification from workers.” The key is to have such documentation onsite and available when the inspectors arrive.

The immigration issue will only grow more hotly debated. With the upcoming mid-term elections, there will be more discussion around the issue of the best manner to ensure enforcement. Given 7-Eleven’s track record on immigration documentation and its place in both the immigrant employer and consumer communities, it is not too surprising ICE went after the company’s stores, even if they were largely franchise operations.

These raids send a clear warning signal to all involved: employers, employees, and consumers. For employers, The Man From FCPA suggests you go back and double check your documentation at both your corporate headquarters and at each location so if the government comes raiding, you will be able to demonstrate compliance with the relevant immigration laws.