Is it illegal to own a company as an undocumented immigrant?


There is no law that says undocumented immigrants cannot own their own business.


Many undocumented immigrants without legal permission to work in the United States have their own businesses. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of small American businesses that are owned by undocumented immigrants: of the 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the US. UU. Estimates in 2017, approximately 12.2% of them have their own business.


How do immigration laws affect companies?


Under federal immigration laws, no company can hire workers without permission to work in the United States. Companies that hire immigrants who lack work authorization may face civil or criminal penalties. Therefore, it is important that as a small business owner you verify the work authorization of your employees and take measures to protect yourself.


What happens if immigration officials arrive at your business?


The government agency that enforces immigration laws against businesses in the United States Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a sub-agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


If ICE suspects that in your small business you may be employing immigrants who do not have work authorization, you can perform an audit and break into your business.


In such an audit, ICE gives the employer an Inspection Notice (NOI) to inform them of the process. The NOI may require you to show your Employee Eligibility Employment Verification Form I-9, and various other documents. Every employer has the obligation to have completed a Form I-9 for each of its employees, verifying their identity and their employment authorization, before hiring them. Generally, ICE gives the employer three business days to respond to this audit request and gather the documents, although the time may be shorter if there is a criminal investigation involved. Once you have the documents in your possession, ICE conducts the relevant investigation.


An ICE raid in the workplace may occur without notice. It is possible that ICE has already conducted a previous investigation and discovered that there are undocumented immigrants working in your business. These raids are conducted by the Department of State Security Research (Homeland Security Investigations or HSI), which is in turn part of ICE. To conduct a raid, the HSI must have an order describing what documents they are looking for and where they are going to look for them. Unfortunately, ICE can attempt to arrest and deport undocumented workers found during the business raid.


If after an audit or raid, ICE believes that the company has violated immigration laws, the company may face the payment of civil fines. ICE will notify the company of the results of the inspection and provide the employer with 10 business days to make corrections for any violation. If unresolved violations remain after 10 days, civil fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per violation.


ICE adopts a five-factor approach when considering what penalties to impose on an employer: (1) the size of the company; 

(2) the severity of the violation; 

(3) the participation of unauthorized workers; 

(4) previous employer violations, if any; and 

(5) the employer's willingness to comply with the laws.


In addition, employers who knowingly violate immigration laws may face criminal proceedings.


What rights do immigrants have during an ICE raid in the workplace?


The possibility of an ICE raid is intimidating, but immigrants must know and defend their rights. Knowing what requirements ICE must meet, you can protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.


In general, ICE is not allowed to enter a workplace unless it has a search or arrest warrant signed by a judge or explicit permission from the business owner. Undocumented immigrants can protect themselves and their co-workers by refusing to allow ICE to enter their workplace without a court order. If ICE tries to break into the workplace anyway and without a court order, workers can declare that they disagree with the search.


In an ICE search warrant signed by a judge, you specify the specific places where ICE can search for certain items. It is important not to allow ICE to search in areas that are not listed in the order. In addition and often, the order does not allow ICE to carry out any arrests. Learn here in detail what else you should do if immigration agents show up at your business.


What happens if you are deported?


In addition to the consequences that your company may face, ICE can deport you if you don't have the documents that indicate that you have legal permission to work in the US. UU. Federal immigration law allows the government to deport people who do not have an updated legal status, for example, if they crossed the border without being inspected by an immigration officer, or if they remained in the US. UU and they did not leave the country when their work visa expired.


However, undocumented immigrants have resources to defend themselves against deportation in immigration court. For example, anyone who expresses fear of being persecuted or tortured in another country as a result of deportation has the right to request an interview with an immigration officer to request humanitarian protection, such as asylum.


In case your deportation is ordered, you must have plans for your business. Undocumented immigrants can delegate another person they trust to continue managing their business in case of deportation and assign this person the ability to make decisions through a power of attorney.


Where can undocumented immigrants go to get immigration help?


Being properly informed is the best thing that every small business owner can do to protect themselves and be prepared. In Camino Financial we are faithful to our motto, "We don't close the doors to any business", and we want you to know that, as an undocumented immigrant who owns a small business, we are with you.


The best thing you can do as a business owner or undocumented worker is to consult with an immigration lawyer to get the advice you need. Also, ensure that the immigration lawyer you are addressing is a licensed lawyer of a State Bar Association and that he maintains his current license. One of the best resources to verify this information is the lawyer search tool provided by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).


There are also several websites available where you can seek low-cost or even free immigration help and legal assistance in your state or area, such as and


In Camino Financial we have a solid commitment to the Latino community. We believe that in times like these, the best thing you can do is know your rights as an immigrant and inform you about the resources available. There are hundreds of institutions and organizations willing to give you the assistance you need. Keep reading here about legal resources for immigrants that you can access.


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