Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been in the news again for its I-9 audits of employers. The Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, is the document completed by all employers when hiring employees in the United States. ICE under the Obama Regime decided that its workplace enforcement strategy will be based on reviews of I-9s by auditors and investigators in a selected centralized unit. Most of the work of this unit will be directed at the employers, not the aliens.

Brett Dreyer (Unit Chief, ICE Worksite Enforcement) spoke of the broader issue and politics of immigration enforcement. While politicians wrestle with immigration policy, the Worksite Enforcement Unit is responsible for enforcing the existing law utilizing its 26 Special Agent in Charge (SAC) districts and 150 smaller offices. The FY 2010 statistics certainly reveal that their new enforcement strategy is proceeding according to plan, with a record number of I-9 reviews and civil fines this year. Brett mentioned that ICE’s worksite focus will remain on employers and that I-9 inspections will most likely continue in “blasts” in all 50 states, which naturally increase public awareness and attention.

Correspondingly, illegal aliens are not the target of ICE anymore, despite the well publicized, but few and far between, arrests of employers who knowingly, rather than winking and nodding, violate the law.

The significant difference between the general ICE strategy of audit enforcement and insignificant number of criminal arrest enforcement is dwarfed by the actual result of both; more actual illegal immigration.

The three major ICE operations of late have been the I-9 audit of Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants on one hand and the twin criminal operations in southern California directed at similarly twin bakeries, S & S Bakery and The French Gourmet.

Chipotle recently admitted in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had 450 employees in Minnesota who either resigned or were dismissed because of employment authorization problems.

DENVER — Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. says it fired about 450 Minnesota employees last year who couldn't prove they were eligible to work in the U.S. [Sic. Most resign immediately when notified that there was a problem with the documents that were submitted as part of their hiring process. They also usually freely admit that they are illegal, either explicitly or by immediate resignation. This is true in almost all cases when an employer confronts employees with discrepancies concerning their documents. However the press and advocacy organizations almost always claim the former employees were fired.]

The Denver-based restaurant chain previously hadn't disclosed how many workers were dismissed after a Department of Homeland Security audit of employees' work documents, saying only that it was in the hundreds.

Chipotle disclosed the number in a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Chipotle says it requires all employees to have documents proving they are eligible to work in the U.S. but some workers may still be unauthorized.

A federal audit of workers' documents also is under way at Chipotle restaurants in Virginia and Washington, D.C., to see if their documents are authentic or contain false information.

Of course, the shoe is about to drop at the remaining Chipotle restaurants in the rest of the United States and similar results should be expected.

Contrast what Chipotle experienced with that of S & S Bakery:

More than 40 people were arrested at an Otay Mesa bakery by federal agents Wednesday. The bakery's owner Jesse William Fadick, two bakery supervisors, Rigoberto Sarmiento-Machuca and Rogelio Machuca-Sarmiento, and an employee, Abel Baizabal, were charged with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.

S & S Bakery subscribed contracts with schools, the military and health care facilities which might be the reason they were made a target for a tighter scrutiny.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 41 suspected illegal immigrants at the company's 35,000 square foot facility while three more suspects were arrested at homes in other parts of the county.

By Thursday night, at least 12 people had been released for humanitarian reasons, including a mother who has a two year-old child that was left in the care of someone else. The mother has been released to care for the child but the father is still detained and they will still face deportation.

And at The French Gourmet:

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego-area French bakery, along with its owner and a manager, are charged in a 16-count indictment unsealed Wednesday resulting from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into allegations the business knowingly hired undocumented workers.

The French Gourmet, Inc, of San Diego, Calif., together with its president and one of the company's managers, are accused in the indictment handed down by a federal grand jury here April 15. The indictment alleges the defendants conspired to engage in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employee unauthorized workers, a misdemeanor, in addition to 14 felony counts, including making false statements and shielding undocumented alien employees from detection.

Also named in the indictment are the bakery's owner, Michel Malecot, 52, and a company manager, Richard Kauffman, 51, both of San Diego. The men are charged with 12 felony counts for making false statements and shielding undocumented alien employees working at the bakery from detection. They were arraigned Wednesday. If convicted, Malecot and Kauffman face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of proceeds gained from the corporation's unlawful activities.

"Employers have a responsibility for maintaining the integrity of their workforce," said Mike Carney, acting special agent in charge for ICE Office of Investigations in San Diego, "This indictment shows ICE's commitment to holding businesses accountable when they repeatedly ignore immigration laws as it relates to their workforce. The goal of our enforcement effort is two-fold, first to reduce the demand for illegal employment and, second, to protect job opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce."

According to the indictment, the company's managers, including Malecot and Kauffman, certified on the firm's Employment Verification Forms (I-9) that the documents they examined appeared to be genuine, and to the best of the their knowledge, the employees listed on the I-9 were eligible to work in the United States.

The managers then put the illegal workers on the company's payroll and paid them by paycheck until they received "no match" letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA) advising that the Social Security numbers being used by the employees did not match the names of the rightful owners of those Social Security numbers.

After receiving the "no match" letters, The French Gourmet, Inc., then allegedly conspired to pay the undocumented employees in cash until the workers produced a new set of employment documents with different Social Security numbers.

In May 2008, ICE agents executed a federal search warrant at The French Gourmet and arrested 18 undocumented workers. During the searches, ICE agents seized employee and payroll records as evidence in the criminal case.

In 2009, ICE implemented a comprehensive strategy to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. Under this strategy, ICE is focusing its resources on auditing and investigating employers suspected of knowingly employing illegal workers. The goal of the enforcement strategy is to promote national security, protect critical infrastructure and ensure fair labor standards. ICE is using all available criminal and administrative tools, including civil fines and debarment, to penalize and deter illegal employment. In fiscal year 2009, ICE worksite investigations resulted in a total of 410 criminal arrests, including 114 management personnel.

Notice the difference in the numbers of illegal aliens affected; 450 at Chipotle and 59 at the two bakeries. However, none of the illegal aliens at Chipotle were arrested. They are free to remain in the U.S. to find jobs at, well S & S Bakery and The French Gourmet, among other employers in desperate need of a docile and underpaid workforce.

But even more evident of ICE's deliberate mismanagement of immigration law enforcement is that fact that of the 41 illegal aliens at S & S, 12 were immediately released. One at least had anchor babies at home, and will more likely than not, never appear for her deportation hearing, much less never be actually deported.

By Thursday night, at least 12 people had been released for humanitarian reasons, including a mother who has a two year-old child that was left in the care of someone else. The mother has been released to care for the child but the father is still detained and they will still face deportation.

She and the others will undoubtedly join the more than 715,000 absconders who have failed to leave the U.S. after being ordered deported.

So, the final score is 462 illegal aliens remaining in the U.S. and only 47 illegal aliens in custody. With all of ICE's efforts many more illegal aliens are free to remain in the U.S. than have been merely arrested, much less actually deported. Not much of an accomplishment for the millions of dollars spent by ICE in its supposed new enforcement strategy. It sounds like the illegal aliens are winning this campaign.

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