Immigration workplace crackdown - it's not a joke

Anyone who thinks the old status quo regarding immigration enforcement in the workplace is today's order of business, think again.

Immigration enforcement is being taken much more seriously these days. While there were twenty five criminal arrests and 485 administrative arrests by the feds in 2002, it has risen to 1,101 and 5,713, respectively, in 2008.

Some recent enforcement actions serve as examples which should make it clear that employers will be locked up and that pleading ignorance is no longer an option when hiring known illegals or failing to exercise due diligence when hiring workers:

On May 22, 2007, agents with ICE and the Social Security Administration ("SSA") raided a poultry plant in Butterfield, Missouri, arresting 100 suspected illegal immigrants. Likewise, in March 2007, ICE raided Michael Bianco, Inc., a military goods factory that was a party to government contracts. Three hundred sixty immigrants were taken into custody. Months after the raid, the president of the company agreed to pay a fine and serve up to 18 months in prison, pleading guilty to several charges, including hiring illegal aliens, helping to shield them from detection, failing to pay overtime, and fraudulently misleading the government. The company was fined $1.5 million.

In perhaps the most publicized worksite enforcement effort thus far, on May 12, 2008, ICE and other government agents raided Agriprocessors, Inc., the country's largest kosher meat processing plant and one of northern Iowa's largest employers. The government arrested 398 workers, most with fake documents. The founder, Brooklyn-based Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Aaron Rubashkin, and his son have been charged criminally along with two human resources managers. In addition, the Iowa Division of Labor Services ordered the company to pay over $250,000 in back wages and proposed fines of almost $10 million against the company for violation of state wage and hour laws. Agriprocessors, Inc. filed for bankruptcy on November 5, 2008. In an interview with the online publication, the elder Rabbi Rubashkin said, "it's a shanda, a shame . . . what happened in Postville."

- Illegal Immigration Worksite Enforcement: How To Safeguard Your Company In An Era Of Unprecedented Raids And Regulations

On December 19, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that IFCO Systems North America (IFCO), the nation's largest pallet management services company, had agreed to a record $20.7 million settlement of claims alleging the knowing employment of illegal aliens. This settlement agreement resolves only the corporate liability and does not encompass pending criminal cases against IFCO managers and employees. To date, nine managers and employees have pled guilty to various criminal charges, and four managers are awaiting trial in New York.

- Record Worksite Enforcement Settlement Sends Message To Employers Of Illegal Aliens

How best to protect yourself? Document, document and document some more. Also, don't forget to document. While saying "E-Verify" is a magic word, it's not perfect and paperwork is also a strong defense. Keep copies of I-9 documents and the identification documents (licenses, Social Security cards, etc.) that the new hires present.

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