Monday, June 30, 2008

45 Arrested On Immigration Charge In Anne Arundel

Federal officials arrested 45 employees on illegal immigration charges Monday at a well-known local painting company that has touted its work on prominent buildings such as the Maryland State House and facilities at the U.S. Naval Academy.

All 45 people were arrested because of administrative immigration violations, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said. All of them will be placed in removal proceedings, the agency said.

The business, Annapolis Painting Services, did not immediately return calls or e-mails seeking comment. The company describes itself on its Web site as "one of the largest painting contractors in the region." The Web site includes photographs of employees working at the state capitol building and includes mention of work at the Naval Academy.

The search warrants were served at the business and 15 residences believed to be owned by it at about 6 a.m., said Anne Arundel County Police Chief James Teare.

"We believe that they were all associated with this painting company," Teare said outside the business, which is located near a popular shopping mall.

ICE, which described the arrests as part of ongoing investigations into workplaces that hire illegal immigrants, has been working on the case for 18 months, according to a statement released by the agency.

Scot R. Rittenberg, assistant special agent in charge for ICE in Baltimore, said the arrests involved 11 search warrants, five seizure warrants for bank accounts, 11 seizure warrants for vehicles and 15 forfeitable properties.

The arrested workers included foreign nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria and Panama, ICE said in a statement.

Investigators could be seen towing vehicles and removing boxes from the business.

About 50 county police worked with 75 ICE officials on the investigation for several months, said Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. Leopold said the arrests should send a strong signal that the hiring of illegal immigrants won't be tolerated in Anne Arundel County.

"This is the most important signal to make that message known," Leopold said.

Meanwhile, civil rights and religious organizations scheduled a rally Tuesday to protest the arrests at ICE's main office in Baltimore by calling for an end to workplace raids.

USCIS Now Offering Grace Period Following Release of New Form I-9

USCIS has revised the Form I-9 page on its website at www.uscis.gov to indicate that it is accepting the “Rev. 6/5/07” edition of the form. USCIS recently released a new edition of Form I-9, dated 6/16/08.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona’s employer-sanctions law

LexisNexis Law Center Staff and Attorney, Ryley, Carlock, & Applewhite

In a case that is undoubtedly being closely watched by immigration advocates and opponents around the country, a panel of judges for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments last Thursday on the constitutionality of Arizona’s employer-sanctions law. In the case of Arizona Contractors Associations, Inc. v. Candelaria, (Case Nos. CV 07-02496 and CV-07-02518), plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of a law that allows the government to revoke or suspend the license of any business that hires an immigrant who is not authorized to work in the country. According to published reports, the appellate judges were skeptical towards arguments that Arizona has no legal authority to impose its own requirements on employers as a way to thwart the hiring of illegal workers.
The “Legal Arizona Workers Act”, which has been in effect in Arizona since January, has been widely debated. Proponents believe that its enforcement would curve the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico looking for better wages. Opponents of the law argue that the law places an undue burden on businesses to check and verify each employee’s work eligibility. The law requires that employers run the names of potential employees through an online database that validates social security numbers and immigration status. A federal judge in Phoenix ruled in February that the law passed Constitutional muster.
For additional information on the Legal Arizona Workers Act, see Allott, Ann. “Ann Allott on Arizona and Illinois Laws (and Lawsuits) on Undocumented Workers.” LexisNexis® Expert Commentary.
While the Candelaria case is the first employer-law case to reach the nation’s appellate level, it joins a small, but ever growing number of conflicting federal district court opinions. In Gray v. City of Valley Park, Missouri, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7238 (E.D. Mo. Jan 31, 2008), the court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment and upheld a city ordinance prohibiting the employment of illegal immigrants. The decision has been appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Read the City of Valley Park’s motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs’ response, the City’s reply, and the City’s supplement.
In Villas at Parkside Partners v. The City of Farmers Branch, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42452 (N.D.Tx. May 28, 2008), a federal judge, expressly rejecting both Candelaria and Gray, granted plaintiff’s request for a permanent injunction barring enforcement of a city statute that required proof of citizenship prior to renting or leasing residential property. The court held that the city was preempted by federal law. Likewise, in Lorenzo v. City of Hazelton, 06-CV-01586-JMM (M.D. Penn. 2006), the judge held federal law preempted a Hazelton statute entitled the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” which required landlords and employers to verify the legal immigration status of renters and potential hires.
We can expect to see more immigration-related statutes and more court challenges as communities grow increasingly frustrated with the federal government’s efforts to police undocumented and illegal immigrants. With the 8th and 9th Circuits expected to issue opinions this summer on the issue, it may not be long before state and local immigration statutes like those in Gray, Candelaria, Hazelton and Farmer’s Branch are on the radar of the United States Supreme Court.

Immigration agents raid Arlington Boeing supplier

http://heraldnet.com/article/20080627/NEWS01/807661105

Immigration agents raid Arlington Boeing supplier

Authorities arrest 32 workers suspected of immigration violations.

ARLINGTON -- Federal immigration agents raided an Arlington aerospace company and arrested nearly three dozen people Thursday morning after a yearlong investigation into allegations the business employed illegal workers.

Immigration authorities served a federal warrant of inspection at Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies Inc., according to Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle.

The company is a leading supplier of frame and interior parts for commercial and military aircraft, including parts used in the Boeing Co.'s 737 and 777 jets.

Federal authorities on Thursday said they didn't have any evidence to indicate that AMT officials knew their workers used bogus documents to gain employment. The investigation is ongoing and the company is cooperating, Dankers said.

"We'll go where the evidence leads us," she said.

Nobody at AMT would comment about Thursday's raid and arrests when contacted by The Herald.

The agents arrested 32 workers for investigation of immigration violations. The majority of the workers are believed to be Mexican nationals without legal authority to be in the U.S., Dankers said. Two of the workers are thought to be from El Salvador.

The probe into AMT began months ago after Immigration received a tip that the business was using undocumented workers, Dankers said. Federal agents audited the company's employment records and discovered discrepancies indicating that a small percentage of employees used fake documents to secure jobs, Dankers said.

About 360 employees were at the shop when immigration agents showed up.

The arrested workers, 16 men and 16 women, are expected to be deported. As part of Thursday's raid, the workers were interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed. Four women were released on humanitarian grounds. Agents determined the women were either caring for children or had a medical problem. They will be allowed to remain free pending deportation proceedings, Dankers said.

The other 28 workers were being held at a federal detention center in Tacoma.

Immigration authorities across the country have launched dozens of enforcement operations at work sites, targeting businesses deemed critical to the country's infrastructure or considered to be sensitive to national security.

The Arlington company is registered with the U.S. Department of State's Director of Defense Trade Controls, Dankers said. The department oversees the export and import of products used for national defense.

Along with the thousands of arrests of suspected illegal immigrants, immigration officials have arrested business owners suspected of knowingly using illegal workers.

"(Thursday's) enforcement action is part of ICE's ongoing nationwide effort to shut down the employment magnet fueling illegal immigration," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of Immigration in Seattle.

"Every job held by an illegal alien is a job taken from a U.S. citizen or legal resident of this area," Winchell said in a statement.

Employer arrests could follow Houston immigration raid

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5857042.html

Immigration agents detain 166 undocumented workers at east side plant

As anxious relatives stood outside, van after van of mostly female undocumented workers were removed from a sweltering rag-sorting factory on Houston's east side and whisked to an immigration processing facility.

The early morning raid Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, while netting 166 undocumented workers, did not include arrests of company officials with Action Rags USA. But those charges may be on the way.

"The office of investigation is looking at allegations of the hiring of illegal aliens, which is a crime," said Special Agent Bob Rutt, of the Houston ICE office. Arresting illegal immigrants was "a collateral part" of the investigation, he said. "Our focus, ICE's overall focus, is targeting the employer."

Rutt, however, referred inquiries about possible criminal charges in Wednesday's raid case, as well as one at Shipley Do-Nuts in Houston, to federal prosecutors. There have been no arrests of Shipley managers or company officials.

"As it pertains to Shipley Do-Nuts, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation," said Angela Dodge, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston.

"I think everybody recognizes that to get a handle on this, ... you have to go after the employer," said Steven Camarota, director of research with the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates stricter immigration controls.

In fiscal 2007, ICE secured fines and forfeitures of more than $30 million in worksite enforcement cases, according to the agency's annual report. ICE did not provide statistics on the number of employers criminally charged last year.

Employer prosecutions aren't "the biggest bang for the buck, as far as the way ICE is thinking about it," said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration think tank based in Washington, D.C.

"It's much easier and gets more headlines to arrest a lot of people," Papademetriou said. "To make a case against an employer requires time and significant investments of investigative resources. Sometimes it takes half a year, or a year."

ICE began investigating Action Rags USA a year ago after learning about hiring practices from a former employee.

The Wednesday raid, which involved 200 ICE agents, started shortly after work began at 7 a.m. at the sorting facility at 1225 Port Houston.

Late Wednesday, ICE officials said of the 166 workers they detained, 130 were females, including 10 who were pregnant. In all, 66 undocumented workers were released for humanitarian reasons, including pregnancy and child care issues, and were told to report to an immigration judge.

The workers who remain detained could be processed for removal from the U.S. The arrest tally included 135 from Mexico, 12 from Honduras, 10 from Guatemala, eight from El Salvador, and one whose nationality is unknown, ICE officials said.

'We were like a family'

The raid surprised many workers as they began a day of sorting bales of used clothing in the un-airconditioned facility. The clothing is shipped worldwide, according to a company Web site, or processed into rags for industry.

A woman who identified herself as a company supervisor said many of the workers initially didn't believe a raid was under way, noting false reports of raids in the past year.

"But when I came out to look, the agents were at the doors, and they had surrounded the warehouse," said Brenda, who gave only her first name. "They started yelling for us to sit down. They started searching us to see if we had knives or weapons."

Brenda said workers who ran from federal agents or tried to hide were handcuffed "and treated like criminals."

"When I left I was crying, because we all got along well," she said. "We were like a family."

ICE officials said four workers were taken to area hospitals due to anxiety attacks and heat-related illness; one woman fell 20 feet from a stack of pallets in which she was hiding.

Repeated attempts to contact company officials at the facility Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Action Rags lost its corporate status in July 2007 due to a tax forfeiture, according to Texas Secretary of State records. The records listed Mubarik Kahlon as the company's registered agent and director.

Secretary of State spokesman Scott Haywood confirmed that Action Rags is no longer a registered LLC in Texas, but said he could not comment on any potential legal implications.

A woman who answered the door at Kahlon's home in Humble said he was not there.

Critics call raid a waste

As ICE continues its investigation, pro-immigrant activists blasted the raid as a waste of taxpayer money which will have hurt Houston's economy and workers' families.

"Are we safer because they arrested immigrant women who are working?" asked Maria Jimenez, with the Center for Central American Resources in Houston. "I mean, 200 agents went to basically capture women who were contributing to the economy. What have we gained for society by removing mothers, wives and sisters from their family?"

Men were also detained, including the husband of Juana Ramirez, who acknowledged her spouse is not in the country legally.

"All he does is go to work, comes home and takes care of the kids when I go to work," said an angry Ramirez, who works at a fast-food restaurant and is expecting the couple's third child. "He doesn't drink or do drugs. It's not good at all."

Papademetriou called raids like Wednesday's the "low-hanging fruit" of operations.

"They don't require an enormous amount of investment on the part of ICE. They make headlines. The numbers look substantial," he said.

According to ICE statistics for the 2007 fiscal year, ICE made 863 criminal arrests and 4,077 administrative arrests as a result of worksite enforcement efforts nationally.

Camarota said even though the number of arrests is small in relation to the millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S., the raids have a significant impact.

"If you're on a highway and thousands of people were speeding and one person gets pulled over, compliance with the law shoots up dramatically. Any law enforcement action has a much greater effect than just on the individuals who are subject to it," he said.

One former ICE prosecutor, Austin attorney Kevin Lashus, said worksite raids are designed to frighten companies who hire undocumented workers.

"What they're hoping to do is be able to use these stepped-up raids to force employers to reconsider their employment verification policies," said Lashus, who is now a member of the Tindall & Foster immigration law firm in Austin. "They're trying to scare the hell out of them — their intent is to force employers to police themselves."

Immigration raids often spare employers

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5863348.html

Immigration raids often spare employers
'Bosses' make up only 2% of recent arrests, a number blamed on high evidence threshold

WASHINGTON — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are staging dramatic raids across the country that routinely seize hundreds of undocumented workers at their jobs — and leave their employers free to work another day.

The appearance of separate justice that arose during federal authorities' surprise morning raid at Action Rags USA on Houston's east side fits a nationwide pattern.

Many of the 166 workers taken into custody on suspected immigration charges in Houston last week were paraded toward vans to be transported into detention. But immigration authorities spared company officials both immediate arrest and the embarrassing "perp walk" that exposed those arrested to news photographers.

"Once again the federal government has it backwards," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, a former state judge and prosecutor. "It is a waste of time if we don't go after the business owners who are knowingly hiring illegals.

"If we eliminate the illegal job opportunities, we can start to eliminate the problem."

Over the past eight months, federal immigration agents have arrested more than 2,900 suspected undocumented workers on administrative immigration charges and 775 more workers on criminal charges such as identity theft or Social Security fraud.

Only 75 ''bosses" — business owners, supervisors or human resources workers — have been arrested on charges such as harboring or knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.

That accounts for barely 2 percent of the total of 3,750 workplace immigration arrests since last October.

In a statement, the immigration agency said that "the presence of illegal aliens at a business does not necessarily mean the employer is responsible," adding: "Developing sufficient evidence against employers requires complex, white-collar crime investigations that can take years to bear fruit."

Must prove they knew

Undocumented workers often face quick prosecution for so-called ''status crimes" such as being in the country illegally — charges that are easy to prove. Many of those arrested quickly plead guilty and serve sentences averaging as little as a month. But to convict employers, federal prosecutors must show that they knowingly hired undocumented immigrants, a threshold that demands more evidence.

"You have to show that the employer knowingly and willingly hired an illegal," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, a former Justice Department official. "A lot of these guys carry multiple Social Security cards" — making it difficult for employers to determine whether they are legally in the U.S.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose Cabinet department handles immigration enforcement, defended the two-tiered practice of arresting undocumented workers at worksites while taking time to assemble criminal cases against employers.

"When we find evidence of persistent, widespread hiring of illegals, we're going in to try to build a case against the employer if there's a case to be built," said Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge.

Federal prosecutors often take years to put together cases against employers.

Immigration authorities raided IFCO, a Houston-based pallet company, more than two years ago. Seven managers and 1,187 undocumented workers were arrested, with many taken into custody at the company's plants in Texas and 25 other states. But it won't be until Oct. 16 that at least two managers, each free on $20,000 bond, will face sentencing after pleading guilty in the case.

Workers rather than managers also led the way into the courtroom after raids netted nearly 1,300 people at the Swift & Co. meat processing plant in Cactus and five other plants in five other states in 2006.

Eight undocumented workers pleaded guilty to felony charges within three months on such counts as illegally re-entering the United States after deportation and using someone else's Social Security number to obtain employment.

'A two-sided coin'

Members of the Houston-area congressional delegation expressed concern about aspects of last week's raid.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, whose congressional district includes the rag-sorting plant, said ICE's deployment of as many as 200 agents and helicopters scared children at a nearby elementary school.

"It sounded like maybe (ICE) had more assets than they really needed to go in and pick up those 160 people there," Green said. "Most of those ladies who worked there, granted they were here illegally, but they weren't holding up liquor stores or hurting people. They just needed a way to support their families."

Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, called worksite enforcement "a two-sided coin."

"As employers, Action Rags broke the law and without question should be prosecuted for their violations," Culberson said. "ICE is equally obligated to enforce the law and be respectful and humane while carrying out their duties."

House Panel Votes 'NO' on Continued Funding for E-Verify

http://www.shrm.org/government/update/062708_2.asp

This week, during consideration of the 2009 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the House Appropriations Committee decided not to extend the "E-Verify" program for 10 years beyond the program's November 30 expiration date.

This action provides SHRM members and other proponents of the "New Employee Verification Act" (H.R. 5515)" with a unique opportunity to again urge their legislators to support NEVA as an alternative to the E-Verify program.

To send a letter to your legislator requesting his/her support of H.R. 5515, please access SHRM's HR Voice letter-writing tool HERE and click on "Write Your Elected Officials!"

For the past 14 months, SHRM and members of the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce coalition have lobbied Congress to replace E-Verify with a new, more secure, accurate, and reliable employment verification system. Under H.R. 5515, employers would access the employment verification system using their state "new hire" reporting process, which is currently utilized for child support enforcement. The Social Security Administration database would be used for U.S. citizens and the DHS database would be used for non-U.S. citizens to verify an employee's eligibility to work in the United States.

In addition, NEVA would create a voluntary biometrics option that employers could choose to use for employee verification. This system would include a standard background check and the collection of a "biometric" characteristic — such as a thumbprint — to secure an employee's identity and prevent the illegal use of a Social Security number, stolen or fraudulently-obtained driver's license, or altered identification documents.

During the past two years, nine states have enacted laws requiring certain employers to use E-Verify in confirming the work eligibility of new hires. If Congress fails to reauthorize the program -- or substitute an alternative verification system -- before the November 30 deadline, many of these state mandates may become null and void.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New I-9 Form for Employers as of June 16, 2008: 5 Documents Removed from List & Electronic Retention and Signature Now OK

New Form I-9

Edition Date: 06/16/08. See http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-9.pdf

No previous edition accepted.

Please note the following changes to the Form I-9 process:

Five documents have been removed from List A of the List of Acceptable Documents:

1) Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561),
2) Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570),
3) Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-151),
4) Unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327),
5) Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571);

One document was added to List A of the List of Acceptable Documents:

1) Unexpired Employment Authorization Document (I-766);

All Employment Authorization Documents with photographs have been consolidated as one item on List A: I-688, I-688A, I-688B, I-766;

Instructions regarding Section 1 of the Form I-9 now indicate that the employee is not obliged to provide his or her Social Security number in Section 1 of the Form I-9, unless he or she is employed by an employer who participates in E-Verify;

Employers may now sign and retain Forms I-9 electronically. See instructions on page 2 of the Form I-9.

Citizens sue after detentions, immigration raids
By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY


LOS ANGELES — Nitin Dhopade, the chief financial officer for Micro Solutions Enterprises, was headed toward the accounting department on the afternoon of Feb. 7 to deliver checks he had just signed. Suddenly, he says, he encountered armed men and women wearing bulletproof vests and uniforms branded with "ICE," which stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Dhopade, 47, says he and 30 other administrative workers for the Van Nuys, Calif., company, which recycles used toner and ink cartridges, were marched down a stairwell lined by officers. The workers were ordered against a wall and told not to touch anything or use their cellphones. "There was no way you could leave. You were definitely detained," he says. "None of us were in handcuffs, but there was no way you could say 'I'm leaving.' "

That marked the beginning of a surprise raid that would result in the arrests of 138 suspected illegal immigrants, about one-fifth of MSE's workforce. Also swept up in the same raid were more than 100 U.S. citizens and legal residents, including Dhopade, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. They say they were illegally detained at the factory for an hour when ICE agents blocked the doors and interrogated them, forbidding them to leave or go to the bathroom without an escort.

Whether their brief detention was a mere inconvenience or a flagrant violation of their constitutional rights is the subject of a growing debate that seems likely to be resolved in federal court. Immigration officials, charged with enforcing the law against the estimated 12 million undocumented foreigners in the USA, are mounting more raids at slaughterhouses, restaurants and factories.

Increasingly, U.S. citizens and legal residents who work alongside illegal immigrants are being detained and interrogated, too. And some, such as Dhopade, are filing claims or lawsuits against the government.

Dhopade says he was a victim of racial profiling by ICE. An ICE agent questioned him about his immigration status and his ability to speak English "because of my skin color," he says. "None of the white folks in the office … that I know of were asked for proof of citizenship. To be asked for proof of citizenship, in this country, it's an insult. This is the United States of America. This country does not require that."

In other immigration raids, citizens and legal, permanent residents have been taken to jail. Jesus Garcia, a former Texas poultry worker, was handcuffed and spent more than 30 hours in ICE custody this year, part of that time in jail. Two co-workers, both citizens, also were arrested. No charges were filed against them.

In April, the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, a public interest law firm here, filed claims for damages on behalf of 114 MSE employees, all citizens or legal permanent residents, also called green-card holders. The claims allege that they were subjected to "false imprisonment" and "detention without justification" and seek $5,000 each in damages from the federal government.

The lawsuits and claims against the government are part of a strategy by immigration lawyers to halt or change workplace raids. Peter Schey, president and executive director of the center, acknowledges that "we're hoping the prospect of thousands of U.S. citizens over time filing claims for damages against the United States government might cause (ICE) to reconsider how these raids are conducted."

"You cannot in this country engage in group detentions of large numbers of people because you think a smaller number within the larger group has done something wrong," Schey says. At the Van Nuys plant, ICE "created a powerful atmosphere of fear and intimidation. People felt like they had been taken hostage."

The rationale for the raids

Julie Myers, the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary for ICE, says federal law, Supreme Court decisions and search warrants give ICE the authority to enter workplaces to question "all the people inside," including citizens. She declines to discuss the MSE case, citing the ongoing investigation. But she says ICE agents work fast to separate legal workers from suspected illegal ones.

"When we go in, a lot of people are pretending to be U.S. citizens, and then there are some people who are," she says. "Our goal is to make sure we work as quickly and efficiently as we can so that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are free to go."

The stepped-up enforcement protects U.S. workers, she says. "We're trying to create a culture of compliance … so that businesses would start to have incentives to hire only people who are legally entitled to work here."

Workplace arrests by ICE in 2007 were 10 times what they were in 2002. Last year, the agency charged 863 people with criminal violations, such as identity theft, and 4,077 for allegedly being in the country illegally. In 2002, ICE made 25 criminal and 485 immigration-related arrests. Workers arrested on criminal charges face jail time; those accused of being in the country illegally are subject to deportation.

So far this year, ICE has made 850 criminal arrests and detained 2,900 people on immigration violations.

ICE has three primary targets, Myers says: workers who steal the identities of U.S. citizens, such as those who use someone else's Social Security number to gain employment; work sites such as airports and naval bases, which could be particularly vulnerable to terrorist threats; and what Myers calls "egregious employers" — those who knowingly hire illegal workers.

Barbara Coe, chairwoman of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, says raids "are providing the incentive for at least some of these illegal aliens to get out of here before they are deported. I don't think there are enough raids. There should be more." She says she's sorry legal residents are sometimes questioned during raids but believes ICE needs time to determine who is here legally.

So does Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. "It's not the end of the world," he says of citizens who are detained. "These people were briefly inconvenienced. Too bad."

'My heart was racing'

Denise Shippy, nine months pregnant the day of the MSE raid, says it was more than an inconvenience.

She had planned to take off that afternoon for parent-teacher conferences and a doctor's appointment. But Shippy, 30, needed to train a receptionist to fill in for her while she was on maternity leave, so she took her two children to the office with her. The raid occurred as she settled Cassidy, 7, and Ricky, 9, into the mailroom for lunch.

As she left the mailroom, Shippy found the lobby filled with ICE agents, and she, the children and co-workers were herded in there. When Shippy tried to respond to an e-mail, she says, one ICE agent said, "Stop typing."

"My rights were violated," Shippy says. "I am a citizen of this United States. I was born here. I'm not who they're looking for. I wasn't allowed to leave. … I couldn't go anywhere and couldn't do anything. Neither could my children."

Although she was upset, she tried to calm her kids, she says. She needed to use the restroom, but held off because she didn't want an agent to accompany her.

"I didn't want to scare the heck out of my kids," she says. "I was trying to be cool and calm for my children. My heart was racing."

At one point, agents started escorting handcuffed workers — suspected illegal immigrants — from the factory floor out the front door. Her children asked why the workers were handcuffed, what they had done wrong and what would happen to them, she says.

"That was when I started getting angry," she says. "My kids should not have had to watch these things. They saw people being led out in handcuffs. These are people who are recognizable to my children."

Shippy, who gave birth to a boy on Feb. 19, returned to work June 9 and says she still feels justified in filing a claim.

"I'm not some money-hungry person," she says. "This is something I'm pretty passionate about. It shouldn't have happened the way it did."

Debate over the law

As long as ICE has a warrant to enter a workplace, Myers says, agents can conduct what she calls a "survey" to determine the legal status of "anyone within the premises."

She cites a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that said factory surveys during immigration raids don't amount to an unconstitutional detention or seizure of those being questioned, even U.S. citizens.

In its ruling, however, the Supreme Court emphasized that the employees in the factory were not prevented from moving around, continuing to work or leaving. The current raids are different from those the Supreme Court approved, Schey says.

ICE can question workers as long as the interaction is voluntary, "but what they're doing (now) is not that," he says, because workers think they have no choice except to answer questions — which may incriminate those here illegally.

Many workers caught in raids don't know they're not obligated to respond, regardless of their immigration status, says Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California-Davis, law school. ICE "can ask people questions. That doesn't mean people have to respond," he says.

Schey suspects ICE is using search warrants as a pretext to enter workplaces and then arrest as many people as it can to get publicity. "It's in effect a group detention," he says, "not supported by probable cause, … not supported by any law."

Michael Wishnie, a professor at Yale Law School, argues that ICE cannot legally detain or arrest anyone without reasonable suspicion that a specific person broke the law. People should not be detained simply because "they work in the same factory as the person" for whom ICE has warrant, he says.

Kris Kobach, who teaches law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, counters that police sometimes have to detain a large group to find the lawbreakers among them. He cites, as an example, police looking for two drug dealers in a house where 10 people live. In such a drug raid, "police will reasonably close the doors to the house and detain everybody," he says.

The factory's owners

No fines or charges have been levied against MSE or its managers.

Brothers Avi and Yoel Wazana, immigrants from Israel, started the company in 1994. Last year, net revenue was $95 million. At MSE's headquarters, a 225,000-square-foot building in Van Nuys, workers clean, disassemble, reassemble and test old printer cartridges. Before the raid, MSE employed about 700 people here.

Myers declined to say what prompted the raid. However, ICE began auditing the company in May 2007, focusing on "I-9 forms," which employers use to document employees' legal status. As part of the I-9 process, employers must inspect at least two documents that show identity and legal status, including U.S. passports, Social Security cards or green cards.

MSE was "in compliance with I-9 requirements," says Schey, who also represents the company. "If some of the documents workers presented were fraudulent," MSE has "no way of determining that."

The next month, the company voluntarily began using a government database to verify the status of new hires, he says. Then the company didn't hear from the government for months, Schey says.

"They expected a letter," he says. "Instead, on Feb. 7, ICE comes in like gangbusters."

About 100 ICE agents raided the factory between 3:30 and 4 p.m., says Nora Preciado, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. Armed with a federal search warrant, they arrested 130 workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries on suspicion of being in the country illegally. ICE also had arrest warrants for eight others, who were picked up at their homes or the factory. These eight, identified by ICE during the earlier check of documents, face criminal charges for making false claims of U.S. citizenship or presenting false documents.

Five people arrested in the raids have been deported, ICE says. The others remain, some in detention, some not, while fighting their deportation orders in court.

Avi Wazana did not comment on the cases against his former employees or the methods MSE used to check their immigration status. In an e-mail after the raid, however, he told some of his customers that "MSE … has rejected hundreds (possibly more) of applicants … due to improper documentation."

The ACLU and other legal aid groups sued ICE, saying the detained MSE workers should have been allowed access to attorneys when they reported for interviews after the raid. U.S. District Court Judge George Wu agreed, and ordered ICE to stop interviewing workers. ICE has since allowed lawyers to be present at any interview with MSE workers.

One of the workers interviewed without an attorney present was Maria, a 39-year-old Pacoima resident who worked at MSE for eight years. She asked that her last name not to be used, on the advice of her attorney. "I felt like I had to answer" questions from ICE, she says. "I didn't know about my rights."

Maria was a supervisor in charge of eight line workers. She says she entered the USA illegally 15 years ago from Mexico so she could give her children a better education. One of her three children, a 14-year-old girl, is a U.S. citizen.

Maria says she'll fight to remain in the USA because she doesn't want to be separated from her family, especially her daughter. The girl's father, Maria's longtime partner, is a U.S. citizen and will care for their daughter if Maria is deported.

"She's not going to leave," Maria says of the girl, an eighth-grader. "This is her country."

Jailed 'over a mistake'

ICE's raids foster discrimination, says Domingo Garcia, attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens. "There's a lot of racial profiling. … If you look like a Hispanic, you're detained or arrested."

He says he plans to file a class-action, civil rights lawsuit on behalf of legal workers detained in raids, including Jesus Garcia, 27, a green-card holder from Mount Pleasant, Texas. Domingo Garcia says he will ask the court to prohibit ICE from conducting raids until it changes its policies to prevent racial profiling.

ICE agents went to Jesus Garcia's home on April 16 in conjunction with a raid on a nearby Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant, where he worked marinating chicken meat. Garcia, from Mexico, has been a legal permanent resident for a year and a half. When about 10 ICE agents and local sheriff's deputies knocked on his door, they told him he was using the wrong Social Security number, says his wife, Olivia Garcia, a U.S. citizen.

Though Garcia showed the agents his green card, they handcuffed him and jailed him. He was released a day and a half later after agents told him he wasn't the person they wanted, he says. He had spent the night in jail. "He said it was pretty bad," Olivia says. "People were crying and screaming."

Jesus Garcia, who has since left Pilgrim's Pride for another job, says the mishap cost him three days of work. "I worked hard to get my residency," he says. "And to take me to jail just over a mistake?"

U.S. Citizens Sue ICE for Being Detained During Raids

Citizens sue after detentions, immigration raids


By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY


LOS ANGELES — Nitin Dhopade, the chief financial officer for Micro Solutions Enterprises, was headed toward the accounting department on the afternoon of Feb. 7 to deliver checks he had just signed. Suddenly, he says, he encountered armed men and women wearing bulletproof vests and uniforms branded with "ICE," which stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Dhopade, 47, says he and 30 other administrative workers for the Van Nuys, Calif., company, which recycles used toner and ink cartridges, were marched down a stairwell lined by officers. The workers were ordered against a wall and told not to touch anything or use their cellphones. "There was no way you could leave. You were definitely detained," he says. "None of us were in handcuffs, but there was no way you could say 'I'm leaving.' "

That marked the beginning of a surprise raid that would result in the arrests of 138 suspected illegal immigrants, about one-fifth of MSE's workforce. Also swept up in the same raid were more than 100 U.S. citizens and legal residents, including Dhopade, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. They say they were illegally detained at the factory for an hour when ICE agents blocked the doors and interrogated them, forbidding them to leave or go to the bathroom without an escort.

Whether their brief detention was a mere inconvenience or a flagrant violation of their constitutional rights is the subject of a growing debate that seems likely to be resolved in federal court. Immigration officials, charged with enforcing the law against the estimated 12 million undocumented foreigners in the USA, are mounting more raids at slaughterhouses, restaurants and factories.

Increasingly, U.S. citizens and legal residents who work alongside illegal immigrants are being detained and interrogated, too. And some, such as Dhopade, are filing claims or lawsuits against the government.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: California | Texas | United States Supreme Court | Department of Homeland Security | Customs Enforcement | United States of America | India | Van Nuys | Julie Myers | Center for Human Rights | Constitutional Law | Micro Solutions Enterprises

Dhopade says he was a victim of racial profiling by ICE. An ICE agent questioned him about his immigration status and his ability to speak English "because of my skin color," he says. "None of the white folks in the office … that I know of were asked for proof of citizenship. To be asked for proof of citizenship, in this country, it's an insult. This is the United States of America. This country does not require that."

In other immigration raids, citizens and legal, permanent residents have been taken to jail. Jesus Garcia, a former Texas poultry worker, was handcuffed and spent more than 30 hours in ICE custody this year, part of that time in jail. Two co-workers, both citizens, also were arrested. No charges were filed against them.

In April, the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, a public interest law firm here, filed claims for damages on behalf of 114 MSE employees, all citizens or legal permanent residents, also called green-card holders. The claims allege that they were subjected to "false imprisonment" and "detention without justification" and seek $5,000 each in damages from the federal government.

The lawsuits and claims against the government are part of a strategy by immigration lawyers to halt or change workplace raids. Peter Schey, president and executive director of the center, acknowledges that "we're hoping the prospect of thousands of U.S. citizens over time filing claims for damages against the United States government might cause (ICE) to reconsider how these raids are conducted."

"You cannot in this country engage in group detentions of large numbers of people because you think a smaller number within the larger group has done something wrong," Schey says. At the Van Nuys plant, ICE "created a powerful atmosphere of fear and intimidation. People felt like they had been taken hostage."

The rationale for the raids

Julie Myers, the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary for ICE, says federal law, Supreme Court decisions and search warrants give ICE the authority to enter workplaces to question "all the people inside," including citizens. She declines to discuss the MSE case, citing the ongoing investigation. But she says ICE agents work fast to separate legal workers from suspected illegal ones.

"When we go in, a lot of people are pretending to be U.S. citizens, and then there are some people who are," she says. "Our goal is to make sure we work as quickly and efficiently as we can so that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are free to go."

The stepped-up enforcement protects U.S. workers, she says. "We're trying to create a culture of compliance … so that businesses would start to have incentives to hire only people who are legally entitled to work here."

Workplace arrests by ICE in 2007 were 10 times what they were in 2002. Last year, the agency charged 863 people with criminal violations, such as identity theft, and 4,077 for allegedly being in the country illegally. In 2002, ICE made 25 criminal and 485 immigration-related arrests. Workers arrested on criminal charges face jail time; those accused of being in the country illegally are subject to deportation.

So far this year, ICE has made 850 criminal arrests and detained 2,900 people on immigration violations.

ICE has three primary targets, Myers says: workers who steal the identities of U.S. citizens, such as those who use someone else's Social Security number to gain employment; work sites such as airports and naval bases, which could be particularly vulnerable to terrorist threats; and what Myers calls "egregious employers" — those who knowingly hire illegal workers.

Barbara Coe, chairwoman of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, says raids "are providing the incentive for at least some of these illegal aliens to get out of here before they are deported. I don't think there are enough raids. There should be more." She says she's sorry legal residents are sometimes questioned during raids but believes ICE needs time to determine who is here legally.

So does Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. "It's not the end of the world," he says of citizens who are detained. "These people were briefly inconvenienced. Too bad."

'My heart was racing'

Denise Shippy, nine months pregnant the day of the MSE raid, says it was more than an inconvenience.

She had planned to take off that afternoon for parent-teacher conferences and a doctor's appointment. But Shippy, 30, needed to train a receptionist to fill in for her while she was on maternity leave, so she took her two children to the office with her. The raid occurred as she settled Cassidy, 7, and Ricky, 9, into the mailroom for lunch.

As she left the mailroom, Shippy found the lobby filled with ICE agents, and she, the children and co-workers were herded in there. When Shippy tried to respond to an e-mail, she says, one ICE agent said, "Stop typing."

"My rights were violated," Shippy says. "I am a citizen of this United States. I was born here. I'm not who they're looking for. I wasn't allowed to leave. … I couldn't go anywhere and couldn't do anything. Neither could my children."

Although she was upset, she tried to calm her kids, she says. She needed to use the restroom, but held off because she didn't want an agent to accompany her.

"I didn't want to scare the heck out of my kids," she says. "I was trying to be cool and calm for my children. My heart was racing."

At one point, agents started escorting handcuffed workers — suspected illegal immigrants — from the factory floor out the front door. Her children asked why the workers were handcuffed, what they had done wrong and what would happen to them, she says.

"That was when I started getting angry," she says. "My kids should not have had to watch these things. They saw people being led out in handcuffs. These are people who are recognizable to my children."

Shippy, who gave birth to a boy on Feb. 19, returned to work June 9 and says she still feels justified in filing a claim.

"I'm not some money-hungry person," she says. "This is something I'm pretty passionate about. It shouldn't have happened the way it did."

Debate over the law

As long as ICE has a warrant to enter a workplace, Myers says, agents can conduct what she calls a "survey" to determine the legal status of "anyone within the premises."

She cites a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that said factory surveys during immigration raids don't amount to an unconstitutional detention or seizure of those being questioned, even U.S. citizens.

In its ruling, however, the Supreme Court emphasized that the employees in the factory were not prevented from moving around, continuing to work or leaving. The current raids are different from those the Supreme Court approved, Schey says.

ICE can question workers as long as the interaction is voluntary, "but what they're doing (now) is not that," he says, because workers think they have no choice except to answer questions — which may incriminate those here illegally.

Many workers caught in raids don't know they're not obligated to respond, regardless of their immigration status, says Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California-Davis, law school. ICE "can ask people questions. That doesn't mean people have to respond," he says.

Schey suspects ICE is using search warrants as a pretext to enter workplaces and then arrest as many people as it can to get publicity. "It's in effect a group detention," he says, "not supported by probable cause, … not supported by any law."

Michael Wishnie, a professor at Yale Law School, argues that ICE cannot legally detain or arrest anyone without reasonable suspicion that a specific person broke the law. People should not be detained simply because "they work in the same factory as the person" for whom ICE has warrant, he says.

Kris Kobach, who teaches law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, counters that police sometimes have to detain a large group to find the lawbreakers among them. He cites, as an example, police looking for two drug dealers in a house where 10 people live. In such a drug raid, "police will reasonably close the doors to the house and detain everybody," he says.

The factory's owners

No fines or charges have been levied against MSE or its managers.

Brothers Avi and Yoel Wazana, immigrants from Israel, started the company in 1994. Last year, net revenue was $95 million. At MSE's headquarters, a 225,000-square-foot building in Van Nuys, workers clean, disassemble, reassemble and test old printer cartridges. Before the raid, MSE employed about 700 people here.

Myers declined to say what prompted the raid. However, ICE began auditing the company in May 2007, focusing on "I-9 forms," which employers use to document employees' legal status. As part of the I-9 process, employers must inspect at least two documents that show identity and legal status, including U.S. passports, Social Security cards or green cards.

MSE was "in compliance with I-9 requirements," says Schey, who also represents the company. "If some of the documents workers presented were fraudulent," MSE has "no way of determining that."

The next month, the company voluntarily began using a government database to verify the status of new hires, he says. Then the company didn't hear from the government for months, Schey says.

"They expected a letter," he says. "Instead, on Feb. 7, ICE comes in like gangbusters."

About 100 ICE agents raided the factory between 3:30 and 4 p.m., says Nora Preciado, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. Armed with a federal search warrant, they arrested 130 workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries on suspicion of being in the country illegally. ICE also had arrest warrants for eight others, who were picked up at their homes or the factory. These eight, identified by ICE during the earlier check of documents, face criminal charges for making false claims of U.S. citizenship or presenting false documents.

Five people arrested in the raids have been deported, ICE says. The others remain, some in detention, some not, while fighting their deportation orders in court.

Avi Wazana did not comment on the cases against his former employees or the methods MSE used to check their immigration status. In an e-mail after the raid, however, he told some of his customers that "MSE … has rejected hundreds (possibly more) of applicants … due to improper documentation."

The ACLU and other legal aid groups sued ICE, saying the detained MSE workers should have been allowed access to attorneys when they reported for interviews after the raid. U.S. District Court Judge George Wu agreed, and ordered ICE to stop interviewing workers. ICE has since allowed lawyers to be present at any interview with MSE workers.

One of the workers interviewed without an attorney present was Maria, a 39-year-old Pacoima resident who worked at MSE for eight years. She asked that her last name not to be used, on the advice of her attorney. "I felt like I had to answer" questions from ICE, she says. "I didn't know about my rights."

Maria was a supervisor in charge of eight line workers. She says she entered the USA illegally 15 years ago from Mexico so she could give her children a better education. One of her three children, a 14-year-old girl, is a U.S. citizen.

Maria says she'll fight to remain in the USA because she doesn't want to be separated from her family, especially her daughter. The girl's father, Maria's longtime partner, is a U.S. citizen and will care for their daughter if Maria is deported.

"She's not going to leave," Maria says of the girl, an eighth-grader. "This is her country."

Jailed 'over a mistake'

ICE's raids foster discrimination, says Domingo Garcia, attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens. "There's a lot of racial profiling. … If you look like a Hispanic, you're detained or arrested."

He says he plans to file a class-action, civil rights lawsuit on behalf of legal workers detained in raids, including Jesus Garcia, 27, a green-card holder from Mount Pleasant, Texas. Domingo Garcia says he will ask the court to prohibit ICE from conducting raids until it changes its policies to prevent racial profiling.

ICE agents went to Jesus Garcia's home on April 16 in conjunction with a raid on a nearby Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant, where he worked marinating chicken meat. Garcia, from Mexico, has been a legal permanent resident for a year and a half. When about 10 ICE agents and local sheriff's deputies knocked on his door, they told him he was using the wrong Social Security number, says his wife, Olivia Garcia, a U.S. citizen.

Though Garcia showed the agents his green card, they handcuffed him and jailed him. He was released a day and a half later after agents told him he wasn't the person they wanted, he says. He had spent the night in jail. "He said it was pretty bad," Olivia says. "People were crying and screaming."

Jesus Garcia, who has since left Pilgrim's Pride for another job, says the mishap cost him three days of work. "I worked hard to get my residency," he says. "And to take me to jail just over a mistake?"

Friday, June 20, 2008

West Coast Mayors Decry Immigration Raids

West Coast mayors decry immigration raids

Mayors want Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to focus on businesses that exploit workers, such as those that violate wage and safety laws, not "responsible employers" that contribute to economies.


By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY

Three West Coast mayors are asking the leaders of other cities to take a stand against workplace immigration raids that they say hurt local economies and may force companies to relocate.

At the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week in Miami, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels will ask their colleagues to challenge how the government raids businesses in search of illegal workers.

They want Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to focus on businesses that exploit workers, such as those that violate wage and safety laws, not "responsible employers" that contribute to economies, their resolution says.

"We've never taken the position that you shouldn't enforce the law," Villaraigosa says. "What we've said is, in a time of limited resources, we should prioritize our enforcement. At a time when we don't have the resources to go after criminals, we're going after legitimate businesses and workers instead. That doesn't make sense."

The resolution will be discussed by a committee Saturday and, if approved, will go to all the mayors for a vote Monday.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Miami | Connecticut | Customs Enforcement | Van Nuys | Danbury | Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa | Kelly Nantel | Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels | California Coalition for Immigration Reform

ICE has aggressively ramped up workplace arrests in the past five years. Last year, it charged 863 people with criminal violations such as identity theft and 4,077 for being in the country illegally. In 2002, it made 25 criminal and 485 immigration arrests.

"We fully respect the opinions of local leaders and will continue to work with them," agency spokeswoman Kelly Nantel says. But she says ICE has a duty to enforce immigration law "that we take very seriously."

"Sometimes we find employers with their illegal workforce in deplorable, substandard conditions, and that's not acceptable," Nantel says. "Employers who harbor illegal aliens are inherently mistreating those aliens for their own financial gain.." She says ICE refers suspected violations to state or federal law enforcement agencies. Last year, ICE was responsible for charges against 92 employers.

Villaraigosa wants his colleagues to adopt the resolution because "mayors all over the country have to deal with the consequences of a broken immigration system," such as businesses taking a severe economic hit if they're raided, says spokeswoman Jazmin Ortega.

Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, Conn., also says the immigration system needs fixing, but he believes communities should help ICE enforce laws. He is a member of the mayors conference but won't attend the meeting.

"To encourage ICE not to enforce the law is irresponsible and goes against good public policy," he says.

If raids continue, Villaraigosa says, regional economies will suffer.

In February, ICE raided Micro Solutions Enterprises, a Van Nuys, Calif., company that recycles printer cartridges, arresting 138 suspected illegal immigrants out of about 700 workers at that plant.

Chief financial officer Nitin Dhopade says the company lost millions after the raid because of reduced productivity, fewer sales and customers, and increased shipping costs to make up for delays.

He says the effects will ripple into the broader economy.

Barbara Coe, chairwoman of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which works to raise awareness of illegal immigration, counters that raids don't hurt the economy, illegal immigrants do.

Some employers hire illegal immigrants instead of legal workers so they can pay them lower wages, she says. "Cheap labor is the bottom line," she says. "There are American workers who will fill those jobs in a heartbeat."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Important Ninth Circuit Decision on Termination of Employee Based on No-Match Letter

Ninth Circuit holds that in union context, employer's termination of employees whose names appear on no-match letter, without any other indication of undocumented status, constitutes termination without cause, in violation of collective bargaining agreement, thus entitling employees to reinstatement and back pay.

For the entire case opinion, click here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Colleges With Federal Contracts Will Have to Use New Employee-Verification System

The Chronicle of Higher Education


Washington — All colleges and universities entering into federal-government contracts will be required to use the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system to establish the immigration status of newly hired employees and all employees working on such contracts, under an executive order signed this week by President Bush.

E-Verify is the federal government’s automated system for allowing employers to verify job applicants’ eligibility to work as U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or authorized immigrants. When an employer submits an applicant’s name and personal information for eligibility verification, E-Verify checks that information against Social Security Administration and Homeland Security Department databases.

A proposed rule, published on Thursday in the Federal Register, states that all employees of federal contractors who are newly hired or who are directly engaged in work on those contracts would need to have their work eligibility checked through E-Verify. The rule applies to contracts of more than $3,000 with work performed within the United States, including those with colleges and universities.

It is unclear how many colleges will be affected by the new rule, although it could hamper colleges seeking to hire foreign scholars or to engage foreign graduate students. Users of the E-Verify system will have to foot the costs of using it, including start-up and training expenses, according to the notice.

Ada Meloy, general counsel at the American Council on Education, said educators were concerned about E-Verify because of error rates in the federal database used to verify employees’ eligibility. “We think this is going to cause some angst,” Ms. Meloy said.

E-Verify has been problematic since it was established, in 1996, as a voluntary pilot program. About 7 percent of queries to E-Verify cannot be verified immediately by the Social Security Administration, and about 1 percent cannot be immediately confirmed by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, according to the Government Accountability Office. The GAO also found that the E-Verify system cannot protect against workers’ using stolen identity information and stolen Social Security numbers.

Public comments on the proposed rule are due by August 11. —Karin Fischer

For the original story, click here.

Official: Arizona Employers Not Verifying Workers

Forbes.com

An immigration official says a large percentage of Arizona businesses aren't using a federal database to check the work eligibility of their employees, as they are required to do by state law.

But Jonathan Scharfen, the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, says he's still happy with Arizona's compliance with the e-Verify program.

Arizona prohibits its 150,000 employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, and a new state law punishes violators with the suspension or revocation of their business licenses.

Scharfen says that only 25,000 of those employers have so far signed up to use e-Verify. But he says most of them are the bigger employers in the state.

For the original story, click here.

Sanctions Law Ruling Will Ripple Across U.S.

Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 8, 2008 12:00 AM

Arizona's employer-sanctions law was among the first in the nation to go on the books, sending the state into a new world of employee screening, absent workers and anxious waiting for prosecutions.

Now, a year after it was signed into law, the measure has survived a challenge in federal court and is the first in the nation to get an airing before a federal appeals court. On Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case, which is being pressed by business groups, civil-rights groups and Latino organizations.

The law allows the state to suspend or revoke the business license of employers found to have knowingly hired illegal workers. The case is being closely watched by lawmakers, attorneys, employers and immigration activists of all stripes. And not just in Arizona.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act, in effect since January, has spawned a number of similar acts in states from Mississippi to Indiana, New Jersey to Colorado.

Two other sanctions-related cases will follow the Arizona case to appeals courts, likely later this summer. The resulting opinions will shape a landscape that could guide sanctions laws nationwide, as well as increase pressure on Congress to do something about illegal immigration.

"It's hard to underestimate the impact Arizona has had with its employer-sanctions law," said Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who has been helping the state of Arizona with its defense of the law.

Arizona, Kobach said, has done two things: It won the first legal challenge against its sanctions law, which emboldened other states to follow suit.

And anecdotal evidence suggests the mere existence of the law has prompted illegal workers to deport themselves, lessening their strain on the state, Kobach said.

For the full story, click here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Immigration Raid by Sheriff's Dept. in AZ on Amusement Park

An article of interest on a Sheriffs Dept. raid (without ICE involvement) at an amusement park in AZ. Company uses E-Verify. 400 worker records seized. 6 workers arrested.

This is the same sheriff that makes male inmates wear pink underwear, operates the only female chain gang in the country, and houses prisoners in tents in the desert (where the temp ranges from 30 degrees to 120 degrees.


Fun-park raids test state hiring law to prosecute employers
Company records seized in illegal-worker inquiry


Jun. 10, 2008 02:25 PM

The Arizona Republic

Maricopa County sheriff's deputies seized hundreds of employee records from the parent company of three Valley summer-fun spots on Tuesday as part of a sweeping ID-theft investigation that may lead to the first use of a new state law to prosecute employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

Nine workers associated with Golfland Entertainment Centers, which operates Waterworld, Golfland and Big Surf, were arrested in an investigation that stems from a tip the Sheriff's Office received in February.

But any potential penalty for Golfland Entertainment Centers through a civil violation of the state's employer-sanctions law is likely a ways off, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said.

"This may or may not turn into an employer-sanctions violation," he said. "These cases take time."

Thomas said it marked the first time that he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio have worked in concert to investigate potential violations of the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which took effect in January. Deputies served search warrants on Waterworld and Golfland for employee records.

A Golfland Entertainment Centers official said the company is cooperating with the Sheriff's Office.

For company employees, Tuesday made for an unusual day.

The arrests and seizures were the result of an investigation that started after a former Waterworld employee provided detectives with specific, credible information about workers at the water park using fraudulent IDs, sheriff's officials said.
Armed with arrest warrants, undercover detectives targeted half-a-dozen workers suspected of ID theft early Tuesday as the employees were on their way to work at Waterworld.

Detectives caught four of them before 9 a.m. and then reconvened in a West Valley meeting room to make plans to serve warrants for Waterworld employee files at the water park and the company's local headquarters at Golfland in Mesa .

By 11 a.m., detectives were collecting records for more than 400 employees at Waterworld and detaining a couple of other illegal-immigration suspects who happened to cross paths with the Sheriff's Office's federally trained deputies. Golfland Entertainment Centers employs more than 1,100 people in Arizona .

Deputies took into custody the fifth suspect as he attempted to flee Waterworld on Tuesday with two co-workers. Sheriff's deputies also detained the co-workers when they couldn't give sufficient evidence they were in the country legally.

The sixth suspect deputies targeted arrived at the Waterworld office and was arrested without incident.

Sheriff's officials reported having evidence that more than 100 employees at Waterworld could have potential discrepancies with Social Security numbers.
Dave Johnson, director of marketing for Golfland, said after the arrests that the company has nothing to hide.

"We haven't tried to impede their investigation in any way, and we are confident we are in full compliance with the law," he said.

Johnson said all employees hired this year have been vetted through E-Verify, a Web-based program that electronically checks the employment eligibility of new hires. The program went into effect this year under the hiring law.

The new law says employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can face the penalty of having a business license suspended or revoked. The E-Verify system, however, can serve as a defense for employers.

Waterworld is one of three water parks owned by Golfland Entertainment Centers, which also operates the Big Surf water park in Tempe and Sunsplash water park and miniature-golf course in Mesa . Johnson said all parks would remain open as scheduled.

The company's local headquarters is in Mesa at Sunsplash. Fred Kenney of Granite Bay , Calif. , is listed as the company's president and chief executive. Golfland Entertainment Centers also operates six parks in California .
Tuesday's action from the Sheriff's Office drew a mixed response from patrons at the family-fun parks in the Valley.

"You just usually don't think of that population working here," said Debbie Walton of Gilbert. "It's teenagers working summer jobs."

Other residents echoed Arpaio's sentiment that his office should enforce all laws to the fullest extent.
"I think it's necessary," said Susan Collins of Chandler . "We have to have laws. I'd like to see them enforced unless they've been changed."

Following an afternoon news conference at the Sheriff's Office, several community activists gathered the media to voice concerns about Arpaio's enforcement of illegal-immigration laws.

Phoenix attorney Antonio Bustamante called the arrests "simply another pretext."
"The sheriff has a hard time complying with the black lettering of the law," he said.
Bustamante said deputies were going against defenseless people without a voice or political power.

Elias Bermudez of Immigrants Without Borders called the raid "selective enforcement."
"He's not going after employers, he's going after employees," Bermudez said.
But that has been Arpaio's approach to enforcing the state's employer-sanctions law since the statute went into effect Jan. 1.

Arpaio, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, often likens immigration enforcement to drug suppression, in which authorities start with small-time offenders and attempt to work their way up to dealers and smugglers.

In this instance, deputies arrest people suspected of identity theft with an eye on gathering enough information to potentially build a case against an employer over violation of a state civil statute.

"We're not just looking at the employees, we're looking at the employers, we're looking at the businesses," Thomas said. He wouldn't say whether the case might serve as a bellwether of sanctions cases to come.

Reporters JJ Hensley, Craig Harris, Jim Walsh and Michael Kiefer contributed to this article.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sun Valley Lays Off Nearly 300 Workers

Sun Valley Floral Farms terminated 283 employees Monday after a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed them that the workers are not eligible to work in the United States because their employment numbers are incorrect.

The cuts represent more than half of the company's workforce, according to Sun Valley Group CEO Lane DeVries.

”It's like a neutron bomb hitting our company,” DeVries said. “Some of these people worked with us for 17 years. Some were team leaders for 10 or 12 years. This is very devastating to the people involved.”

The action from ICE likely stems from investigations and raids that took place nearly one year ago this week, resulting in the deportation of many immigrants.

DeVries said Sun Valley's employment records were searched at that time, and approximately seven months ago, they were asked to submit I-9 tax forms. They hadn't heard anything further until last week.

”If there was a way we could have avoided this, I would like to have heard it,” he said. “But the law is the law. If immigration sends you a letter, you really don't have a choice.”

In a company-wide meeting Monday afternoon, DeVries explained the situation to his employees and handed out final paychecks to the terminated workers, along with letters informing them that their numbers are incorrect.

”It was a very somber meeting,” he said.

Sun Valley is by no means the only business on the North Coast to employ immigrant labor, and DeVries feels that large-scale crackdowns like this one could damage the local economy.

”A large portion of the workforce (in Humboldt County) is made up of these fine, fine people,” he said. “They're hard workers; their kids are attending schools; they go to church on Sundays. This is very devastating to the people involved. This is a bad deal.”

The layoffs have left the company desperate for workers.

”We need people in the worst possible way,” DeVries said. “It makes for a very, very tough situation. This has to be one of the darkest days in the history of our company.”

Ryan Burns can be reached at 441-0563 or rburns@times-standard.com.

For the original story, click here.

Bush Widens Immigration Checks

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, in an aggressive new effort to keep illegal immigrants out of the workforce, on Monday ordered all companies doing business with the federal government to begin ensuring their employees can legally work in the U.S.

The order will require thousands of firms to use a government system called E-Verify to check workers' Social Security numbers. The system has been voluntary for private firms but mandatory for government agencies.

The policy, which initially applies to new hires, eventually could affect millions of federal contract workers nationwide whose jobs range from serving cafeteria food to launching NASA spacecraft. The step is one of several the administration planned after Congress failed last year to pass an overhaul of immigration laws.

"The federal government should lead by example and not by exhortation," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has encouraged firms to use E-Verify.

Groups advocating immigration restrictions have embraced E-Verify as a way to weed out illegal workers. But it has been criticized by business groups and immigrant advocates because errors in the Social Security database can lead to red-flagging legal residents.

And with the rapid expansion of federal contracting under President Bush, some critics questioned whether the order would be workable.

"I just don't know how the administration is going to enforce this," said Paul C. Light, a New York University professor and federal contracting expert who said such outsourcing had grown by 70% under Bush. "It's a very large number and very difficult to track. Who is responsible for making sure the sub-sub-sub-contractor is using E-Verify?"

E-Verify is already a success, Chertoff said, predicting that the executive order would affect "hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of workers."

To see the full story, click here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Iowa Company Targeted in ICE Raid Hires Compliance Officer

It would be a great idea for a lot of companies to hire immigration compliance officers!

Agriprocessors should have done this before getting raided!



Agriprocessors hires compliance officer

Des Moines Register.com

By Grant Schulte • Register Staff Writer • June 5, 2008


Agriprocessors, Inc. in Postville has hired a former federal prosecutor to monitor the meat company’s compliance with state and federal laws, a spokesman announced today.

Jim Martin, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, will serve as the company’s corporate compliance officer starting immediately, according to a news release. Martin heads the Prevene Group, a St. Louis firm that helps companies comply with laws.

“Agriprocessors’ 800 jobs are important to Postville and northern Iowa, along with the observant Jewish community across the country that relies on them for meat and poultry,” Martin said in the statement. “Agriprocessors can meet the needs of those who depend on the company and operate in compliance with all laws, and I intend to see that happen.”
Advertisement

The new hire came less than a month after federal immigration agents stormed the kosher meat-processing plant in what was later deemed the largest single-site raid in U.S. history. Nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested, and 305 were charged with immigration-related felonies.

The bust also exposed allegations of physical and verbal abuse by the plant’s managers, though none have been charged. The company announced May 23 that it planned to hire a new CEO.

Heshy Rubashkin, the vice president for Agriprocessors, said: “We are pleased to have someone with the integrity and credentials of Jim Martin join our team. Retaining Jim and his team is part of an ongoing effort to improve compliance and safety performance. We take responsibility to our employees, to Postville and to the observant community very seriously.”

Martin investigated white collar and corporate fraud cases during his 21-year stint as a prosecutor, according to his biography on the Prevene Group’s Web site. He recently was recognized in “Best Lawyers in America” for corporate governance and compliance law.

Agriprocessors also has begun interviewing candidates to fill its opening for chief executive officer, the statement said.

“Obviously, selecting the right person for this job is critical,” Rubashkin said. “We are moving with deliberate speed to make the best selection as soon as possible. Hiring a new CEO and retaining an outside corporate compliance officer demonstrates our company’s commitment to meaningful change.”