Sunday, August 10, 2008

ICE Steps Up Work Site Raids

In a series of highly controversial and highly publicized raids, ICE officials arrested scores of undocumented workers as well as allegedly corrupt company officials who assisted the workers in obtaining false work documents. The raids come on the heals of the controversial Postville, Iowa raid in May at which time over 300 undocumented workers were seized at Agriprocessor, the worlds largest kosher meat processor. That raid became notorious among civil rights advocates because of pressure applied by federal officials through an "exploding plea bargain" (sign the deal within 7 days of arrest or face maximum prosecution with 2-year mandatory minimum sentences) which required detainees to forfeit all possible immigration relief. Most are now serving 5-month federal prison terms which will be followed by immediate deportation," according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The willingness to use the threat of criminal prosecution is the newest weapon in the ICE arsenal.

So far in fiscal year 2008, ICE has made more than 3,700 administrative immigration arrests in connection with worksite enforcement investigations, including 850 involving criminal violations. In fiscal year 2007, ICE made more than 4,900 arrests in connection with worksite enforcement investigations, including 863 involving criminal violations.

The most recent raids this summer include the following:

  • More than 160 employees arrested at a Houston Rag-Exporting Company in June. The raid against Action Rags USA, an international supplier of used clothing and rags, resulted in criminal charges against the owner and manager, alleging a conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, inducing illegal aliens to come to the U.S. and engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring illegal aliens. According to the criminal complaint, the year long investigation revealed that the company did not complete I-9 forms to verify eligibility for employment, hired undocumented aliens and paid them in cash until they were able to purchase fraudulent identity and social security cards from local flea markets.
  • Thirty-two arrested at a Puget Sound Area Aerospace Manufacturer in June. Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies, Inc. (AMT) is a leading supplier of frame and interior parts for commercial and military aircraft, providing many of the parts used in some of aviation's most popular airplanes, including the Boeing 737 and Boeing 777. The arrests followed an ICE audit of AMT that revealed discrepancies leading agents to believe that a small percentage of the company's employees used counterfeit documents to secure their jobs. There is no evidence AMT was aware the arrested workers had used false credentials to secure their employment. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Two alleged supervisors at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa, were arrested in July on various criminal immigration and fraudulent identity charges. The criminal complaint alleges that, a few days before the May 12, 2008, execution of a search warrant at Agriprocessors, the Human Resources manager told a group of employees they needed new IDs and Social Security numbers to continue working at the company, and they would need to provide him with a photograph and $200 or $220. Fraudulent resident alien cards were allegedly supplied to Agriprocessors workers. The Complaint also alleges that the May 12 search resulted in seizing dozens of fraudulent permanent alien resident cards from offices within the human resources department at Agriprocessors.
  • Forty-five employees of a Maryland painting company were arrested in July and charged with administrative immigration violations. All of the individuals arrested will be placed in removal proceedings.
  • Eighteen workers at a Colorado Concrete Plant were arrested in mid July for being in the United States illegally. One is from El Salvador; the rest are from Mexico. The company fully cooperated with ICE during the operation; no criminal charges are anticipated against the company.

Employers are again advised to complete the I-9 form for EVERY employee and to do so in good faith. If the documents later turn out to be fraudulent, the employer is protected as long as the employer could not reasonably know that the documents were false.

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