If you’re concerned about the moral and practical implications of businesses that hire illegal immigrants, this seems like a positive step:
Immigration agents had prepared a nasty surprise for the Garcia Labor Company, a temporary worker contractor, when they moved against it on charges of hiring illegal immigrants. They brought a 40-count federal indictment, part of a new nationwide strategy by immigration officials to clamp down on employers of illegal immigrant laborers.
Maximino Garcia, the president of the company, which provides low-wage laborers to businesses from Pennsylvania to Texas, stood before a federal judge here on Tuesday to answer conspiracy charges of aiding illegal immigrants and money laundering. If convicted, Mr. Garcia, who pleaded not guilty, could serve 20 years in jail and forfeit his headquarters building and $12 million.
The criminal charges against Mr. Garcia and his company were brought by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security. The campaign has included at least five other federal indictments of business executives in Ohio and Kentucky and has sent payroll managers rushing to re-examine their workers’ papers and rethink plans for their work force.
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Until recently, the worst that Mr. Garcia, 43, might have expected from the immigration authorities was a civil fine and the deportation of some illegal workers. In April, with President Bush under fire from both Democrats and Republicans who accused him of being lax on employers of illegal immigrants, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the new campaign. It focuses on those suspected of violations with felony charges that could lead to huge financial penalties and the seizing of assets.
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Companies like Garcia Labor have sprung up across the United States. Instead of hiring immigrants directly, employers create a buffer by contracting with a labor company, which is responsible for verifying its workers’ documents. Employers can argue that that they were not aware that workers provided by a contractor did not have valid papers.
According to the indictment, in a single month, May 2003, the Social Security Administration informed Mr. Garcia that 186 of his employees who were working at ABX Air had invalid Social Security numbers. Garcia Labor continued to send laborers to ABX Air even after they answered no when asked on applications if they were eligible to work in the United States, the indictment says.
The article also quoted immigrants’ rights proponents who argued that the crackdown led to a climate of fear among immigrant communities — odd since they’re basically being used by unscrupulous business owners.