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Immigration Raids at Walmart a Hoax

Recently, you may have received several e-mails or text messages about Immigration Raids occurring at local Walmart stores.  These messages began circulating a few weeks ago across the country, claiming that Walmart had authorized federal law enforcement officers, specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Officers, to enter its stores and arrest any undocumented immigrants.  Walmart has officially denied these rumors and from both a practical and legal standpoint, they seem to be false.

First, it is true that immigration officers have the authority to interrogate any alien, or person believed to be an alien, about his right to be in the United States.  However, any such questioning must not restrain the freedom and ability of a person who is not under arrest to simply walk away.  Only when the immigration officer has a reasonable suspicion, based on specific and definable facts that someone is present illegally in the United States, can he briefly detain that person for further questioning.

Second, immigration officers do have the authority to do site inspections at locations where there is reasonable suspicion, based on articulable facts, that undocumented aliens are present or engaged in unauthorized employment.  This basically means that ICE officers can conduct immigration raids where they reasonably believe undocumented aliens are present or working.  If ICE is conducting an employment based raid, regular customers of the place of business would not normally be affected.  Walmart, like any other retail place of business, has all sorts of customers whether they be American, European, Asian, African, Hispanic or otherwise.  For ICE officers to have reasonable suspicion based on articulable facts that regular patrons of a store are present in the United States illegally, they would basically need to receive tips or some other form of evidence to that effect.  Since Walmart does not routinely check on the immigrant status of its customers, such tips or other evidence coming directly from Walmart would amount to nothing more than suspicion and racial profiling, and it is highly unlikely that Walmart would engage in such offensive and illegal actions against its customers.

Finally, if these alleged raids were actually occurring at Walmart stores around the country, it would be more of a sensationalized news story than mere text messages and e-mails.  These e-mails and texts call upon Hispanics to boycott local Walmart stores in retaliation for the raids, but again, these alleged raids appear to be nothing more than a hoax.

Originally Published: La Costa Latina, 2010

The information provided in this column is for general information purposes only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice.  If you have specific legal questions, you are encouraged to contact an attorney.

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