U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Raids Workplaces, Making Numerous Arrests

U.S. ICE raids Poultry Plants, Doughnut Factory, Mexican Restaurants and Arrests Managers and Hundreds of Workers

I’ve previously posted about the issue of undocumented workers and talked about it a bit at our Annual Employment Law Seminar yesterday, so the AP story in today’s Wilmington News Journal is especially timely. The article
describes the latest raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security on workplaces with large numbers of illegal alien employees. The raids included arrests of an owner and 10 managers of one company.

As I said yesterday, one reason that business owners and managers should be paying close attention to this issue is to stay out of jail!

ICE arrested 300 workers for identity theft, document fraud and immigration violations at Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plants in five states. The company itself reported identity theft issues to ICE and cooperated in the enforcement action. It uses the E-Verify online database to check the documentation of new employees, and fires employees who do not correct documentation problems. But, as a company spokesperson pointed out, that doesn’t help with cases of outright identity theft. This is at least the fourth round of raids and arrests on poultry plants since 2005.

No charges were filed against the company itself. On the other hand, yesterday’s arrests included the owner and 10 managers of a chain of Mexican restaurants located in four states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia), who were charged with employing illegal immigrants. Forty-five restaurant workers were also arrested on immigration charges.

30 people were arrested in a raid of a Houston doughnut factory. Many of the individuals who were arrested were housed in a company dormitory. No word yet on whether owners or managers of the factory will face criminal prosecution.

The article concluded with a report that a grand jury in Atlanta had indicted 10 people from employment agencies there for placing illegal aliens at locations in six states. The agencies were charged with developing a network to “recruit and exploit” illegal workers.

My previous posts on this topic include, “The Safe-Harbor Rule for No-Match Letters,” Parts 1, 2, and 3, as well as “Get the Jump on No-Match Letters and Suspicious Documents.” Those articles provide you with comprehensive explanations of what No-Match Letters are and how they can impact your business.

The moral of this story is that employers must be proactive in protecting themselves from this type of situation.

If you know or suspect that your workers are using false documents, don’t just sit on your hands and hope for the best. You should sign up for and start using E-Verify for new hires, and use the Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS) provided by the Social Security Administration to find out the extent to which your current workers’ social security numbers and names do not match Social Security Administration records. Develop a policy for dealing with this issue, including terminating all employees (whether they “appear” to be illegal immigrants or not) who fail to straighten out no-match issues within a reasonable time.

Employers must tread carefully when creating a policy to avoid discrimination issues. Contact me if you’d like some help.