Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ICE now focusing on employers: I-9 Audits and the Krispy Kreme Settlement

Photo used under Creative Commons from brewbooks.

The US Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) announced on July 7, 2009 that it had reached "a $40,000 fine settlement" with the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation "for violations of immigration laws." According to an ICE press release, it began a strategy of focusing on employers of illegal aliens in April 2008 and began notifying businesses of its intent to audit form I-9. "Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This form requires employers to review and record the individuals identity document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual."

Interestingly, the press release stated, "ICE conducted an I-9 inspection of Krispy Kreme after receiving information from the Butler County Sheriff's Office which revealed the company had employed dozens of illegal aliens at one of their doughnut factories in Cincinnati." The Butler County, Ohio Sheriff, Richard K. Jones, has a blog where he told his readers that he sent a letter to President Obama where he stated, "[t]he drugs coming from Mexico to the United States is out of control and it appears we have no policy to control any of these serious problems. I believe they need to be addressed by the new President." You can read the rest of his blog here. The Butler County Sheriff's Department entered into a 287(g) agreement with ICE in 2008.

There is no indication that ICE actually found any illegal workers on the premises but it did apparently find "violations of immigration law" related to the I-9. I think focusing on the employers is a better long term strategy of enforcement. When ICE simply raids and deports the factory workers, the employer rarely is the focus. Instead, as we saw in Postville, Iowa, the workers are charged, convicted and deported. The families and community are then left to pick up the pieces. In those cases, sanctions against the employer are generally secondary. When ICE leaves, the employer still has an incentive to hire persons not authorized to work in the United States. This new strategy, however, will make the employer the focal point. Perhaps this new emphasis will prove more effective.

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