Immigration Officials Say Plants Knowingly Hired Undocumented Workers

 

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Several chicken processing plants in Mississippi may have violated federal law by knowingly employing undocumented immigrants, according to recently released affidavits from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. However, company employees said they complied with E-Verify—a federal electronic employment eligibility system—and that they never knowingly employed people who presented false documentation to work, reported The Washington Post.

ICE agents raided seven agricultural processing plants Aug. 7 and detained about 680 immigrants who the agency said were unlawfully working at the plants. This was the largest workplace raid in recent years.

An ICE spokesman said no charges have been filed against the companies or the workers since the raids, according to The Washington Post.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

ICE Worked with Confidential Informants

Businesses in Mississippi have been required to use E-Verify since 2008. But the system can't always tell if an employee used falsified employment documents to get hired because it only checks the names, Social Security numbers and other information provided by the worker. So immigration officials worked with confidential informants employed by the plants to gather information about potential legal violations and also recorded conversations between informants and managers and HR professionals. Officials alleged that at least 20 employees' names were not put through E-Verify at one plant. An HR professional at another plant allegedly said "management does not care" about employing immigrants with questionable documentation.

(The Washington Post)

Managers and HR May Be Targeted by ICE

Affidavits that were made public after the raids show that ICE agents believed the five companies that own the plants were "willfully and unlawfully" employing undocumented immigrants. Some of the affidavits point to manager misconduct. At one plant, an employee said a worker presented identification to HR with different names each time she was hired. Julie Myers Wood, a former assistant secretary of homeland security, said ICE's use of informants might mean the agency is trying to be more aggressive about targeting employers. "They are being aggressive and trying to target rogue H.R. managers or others within the management chain," she said.

(The New York Times)

Plant Holds Job Fair After Raids

At least 100 workers attended a job fair Aug. 12 to apply for positions made available in part by the raids. In Mississippi, the poultry industry is a large economic driver, and job applicants said they hoped employment with one of the plants would improve their finances by offering a steadier paycheck, slightly higher wages and a more accommodating schedule than other jobs in the rural area. Some applicants said they didn't think the plants would be able to fully replace the jobs that were vacated as a result of the raid. "There are 680 jobs that were lost, and there are not 680 people here," said one job-fair attendee.

(The Washington Post)

Immigration Worksite Enforcement Surged in 2018

Worksite investigations, Form I-9 audits and employee arrests spiked in fiscal year (FY) 2018 compared to the previous year, according to ICE data. Worksite investigations rose by more than 300 percent, and the agency set 10-year highs for the number of I-9 audits conducted and criminal charges filed.

(SHRM Online)

How HR Can Prepare for Workplace Audits and Avoid Fines

Employers can avoid big fines by developing a comprehensive I-9 compliance program, which should include training, self-audits and an investigation-day action plan. Employers must properly complete a Form I-9 for each person they hire, or they may be subject to criminal and civil sanctions. Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and employing undocumented workers range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, with repeat offenders receiving penalties at the higher end. Penalties for technical violations, which include failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation. 

(SHRM Online)

 

Visit SHRM's resource page on workplace immigration

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