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IMMIGRATION RAIDS - CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS

BACKGROUND
Over the past several years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has conducted workplace raids after which the Department of Justice (DOJ) has criminally prosecuted high numbers of undocumented workers.

Undocumented workers apprehended during workplace raids are typically charged with identity theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A, using a false social security number in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B), using other false employment documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a), and, on some occasions, illegal entry into the United States under 8 U.S.C. § 1325 or 8 U.S.C. § 1326.

POSTVILLE, IOWA RAID
Although workplace raids have been conducted in a number of states, a 2008 raid in Postville, Iowa, distinguished itself as the largest single-site raid nationwide. At Postville, 306 workers were turned over to the US Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa to face criminal charges.

The Postville prosecutions were fast-tracked under unprecedented conditions. The government distributed a pre-packaged "manual" to the defense lawyers who were appointed to represent the workers, instructing them on how to expedite their clients' cases. Meanwhile, the district court assembled "checklists" and forms for initial appearances, change of pleas, and sentencing hearings in advance of the raid.

The prosecution imposed a seven-day deadline within which to accept a plea or face conviction on the more serious offense of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years imprisonment. In addition, the prosecution conditioned these pleas on the defendants' waiver of all rights and protections under immigration laws. A typical Postville plea agreement can be found here.

The assembly-line method of prosecution at Postville falls outside the norm. Other recent workplace raids have not been fast-tracked. Nevertheless, the Postville raids generated a number of resources for use in defending non-citizens in cases of this nature.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
  • AILA Information on Workplace Raids
    (web page compiling information on ICE workplace enforcement)

  • Immigration Consequences of Conviction
    (This page on fd.org contains numerous articles on the types of convictions that can adversely impact a non-citizen's immigration status, interview checklists to assist in determining a client's immigration status, articles on defenses to removal and pre-trial detention of the non-citizen client, and analyses of counsel's obligations under Padilla v. Kentucky.)