Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chipotle Knew

And so did the Federal government. It is no surprise that fired workers from Chipotle are claiming that Chipotle management knew about their illegal status. (h/t Stein Report)

(Reuters) - The hundreds of illegal immigrants recently fired from fast-growing burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc had a pretty good run when it came to job security.

Not only did some get jobs with fake Social Security numbers and few questions about their immigration status, in some cases they actually told managers point-blank their papers were no good. And they often stayed on for years.

Marta, an undocumented worker from Mexico, twice used false Social Security numbers to secure positions at the chain now being audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

She was hired with one false Social Security number in 2003 and rehired as a new employee a few years later under a different name with new, but still fake, number.

The second hire, in 2006, came after Marta told her bosses she needed to change her Social Security number because it belonged to someone else and had caused her mortgage application to fail.

"I thank them (for rehiring me) because I was about to lose my job," said Marta, who was finally fired last winter for false documents along with about 450 more of Chipotle's 1,200 Minnesota workers. She asked that her full name not be used for fear of deportation.

Now facing more audits in Washington D.C. and Virgina, Chipotle has become the best-known company in the sights of ICE. Its audit-related firings, including dozens in Washington, are no minor staffing issue.

The 26,500-strong company says it takes the audits, the outcomes and the law very seriously. But Reuters has interviewed eight former employees, most of whom speak fondly of their time at the company, who say Chipotle's management ignored signs that called workers' immigration status into question.

Well, everyone knew. Chipotle customers know when they visit; the workers were uniformly Hispanic and are unable to communicate in English;

A former supervisor who asked to be called Ramirez, a surname, was hired in 2006 -- after Chipotle's own computer system kicked back the first Social Security number he presented because a different employee already had used it. He bought a new Social Security card and used it to get a job.

Given the terminations in Minnesota and Washington, Reuters asked the company why it has not yet adopted E-Verify, the verification system recommended but not required by ICE, in all of its markets. The company did not respond to the question.

One answer the fired workers and union leaders offer is that hiring illegal immigrants was good for business because it lowered labor costs.

"They know we're hard workers and that we are going to do the job the way they want, so they will keep it quiet," said Jose, 45, an undocumented Minnesota worker who was fired after nearly five years at Chipotle. He asked not to be identified because he has a job at another restaurant.

Chipotle knew, as the numbers of illegals show, keeping down wages will illegal alien was their business model.

Chipotle's "business model depends on folks going in and being served food by Latinos ... This is why this problem goes to the core of their business," said Javier Morillo, president of labor union SEIU Local 26, which does not represent the fast-food sector but has helped the Minnesota Chipotle workers because of its interest in immigration reform.

But Federal government knew as well; the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration received and reviewed their tax and Social Security Numbers, ignoring or making little effort to end any SSN or tax fraud. And, of course, ICE knew. It just took them long enough to audit Chipotle. With its whole business plan based on illegal alien labor, ICE should have shut Chipotle down years ago. So far, ICE is not auditing Chipotle operations in Colorado, so, as yet, there is no evidence that ICE is making any widespread effort against Chipotle, hoping that the limited audits in Minnesota and DC will scare it straight, or, more likely, provide the appearance of immigration enforcement, boob bait for bubbas. Because we certainly know that ICE has not arrested a single illegal alien who worked at Chipotle.

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