Local advocates and public officials are continuing to address growing fears throughout the community in the wake of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serving inspection notices at 77 Northern California businesses last week—including several in the South Bay.
The I-9 audit notifications issued last week alerted employers in San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento and other cities that ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) will check their hiring records. The workplace enforcement campaign came less than a month after the 7-Eleven raids and as the region sees a huge uptick in immigration-related retaliation complaints.
ICE spokesman James Schwab said the I-9 investigations are ongoing, and that workers unauthorized to work in the U.S. will be subject to arrest and deportation.
“The actions taken this [past] week reflect HSI’s stepped-up efforts to enforce the laws that prohibit businesses from hiring illegal workers,” Schwab wrote in an email. “HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy is focused on protecting jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthening public safety and national security.”
The raids have created a sense of panic in immigrant communities, putting them in “defensive mode,” according to immigrant advocate Rosa De Leon, a program manager for the charitable nonprofit Sacred Heart Community Services.
But, she added, hers and other local organizations are doing their best to fight back.
“It’s having a big impact not only on immigrant families, but overall in the community and workforce in our county,” De Leon said. “We have been in contact with workers who have been in their company for about 19 years. Now they are being forced to leave their job due to these audits.”
Santa Clara County’s Rapid Response Network—a volunteer-run hotline that aims to help immigrants targeted by authorities—fielded calls from six workers and two employers affected by the recent I-9 probes. Even before the workplace audits, De Leon said, the hotline was fielding up to 15 calls a day from people concerned about the enforcement crackdowns. The emergency network, which is staffed by 700 volunteers, has been unable to confirm many of the suspected raids, but is providing referrals to attorneys and other resources for families at risk of deportation.
Celine DinhJanelle—director of Pangea Legal Services’ South Bay operations, which represents people in deportation proceedings—said she hasn’t been in contact with anyone affected by the recent audits in Silicon Valley. But she encouarged the immigrant community to resist President Donald Trump’s intimidation tactics by learning about the resources available to help people targeted by ICE.
“It’s scare tactics by the Trump administration to punish California for being a sanctuary state,” DinhJanelle said. “The only reason why I think they did so many at the same time was to make headlines and really make the community worried.”
For immigrants affected by these crackdowns, she added, that it’s important for them to become informed of their rights. Consultations with advocacy organizations and immigration attorneys can help them determine their risk for arrest and figure out what options they have to fight it.
“The immigrant community should know that we have the power to stop this,”De Leon said. “We need to continue to be active in challenging the attacks to our community. We can stop them, but we’ve got to transform our fear into action.”
She urged people who witness a suspected immigration raid should call the Rapid Response Network 408.290.1144. For more information about the hotline, click here.