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 weekâincluding 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 ICEâs Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) will check their hiring records. The workplace enforcement campaign came less than a month after the 7-Eleven raidsÂ and as the region seesÂ 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.
âThe actions taken this [past] week reflect HSIâs stepped-up efforts to enforce the laws that prohibit businesses from hiring illegal workers,â Schwab wrote in an email. âHSIâs 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.â
The raids have created a sense of panic in immigrant communities, putting them inÂ âdefensive mode,â 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.
âItâs having a big impact not only on immigrant families, but overall in the community and workforce in our county,â De Leon said. âWe 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.â
Santa Clara Countyâs Rapid Response Networkâa volunteer-run hotline that aims to help immigrants targeted by authoritiesâfielded 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.Â 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 DinhJanelleâdirector of Pangea Legal Servicesâ South Bay operations, which represents people in deportation proceedingsâsaid she hasnât been in contact with anyone affected by the recent audits in Silicon Valley. But she encouarged the immigrant community to resist President Donald Trumpâs intimidation tactics by learning about the resources available to help people targeted by ICE.
âItâs scare tactics by the Trump administration to punish California for being a sanctuary state,â DinhJanelle said. âThe only reason why I think they did so many at the same time was to make headlines and really make the community worried.â
For immigrants affected by these crackdowns, she added, that itâs 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.
âThe immigrant community should know that we have the power to stop this,âDe Leon said. âWe need to continue to be active in challenging the attacks to our community. We can stop them, but weâve got to transform our fear into action.â
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.