On August 25, 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an arm of
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), conducted the largest
single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history at Howard Industries, Inc., an
electric transformer manufacturing facility, located in Laurel, Mississippi.
Approximately 595 illegal aliens were arrested and 8 will be prosecuted for
criminal charges of aggravated identity theft. The agents executed a federal
criminal search warrant for evidence relating to aggravated identity theft,
fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, as well as a civil
search warrant for individuals illegally in the United States.
According to the ICE Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Investigations
in New Orleans, Michael A. Holt, this enforcement action is “part of ICE’s
ongoing nationwide effort to shut down the employment magnet fueling illegal
immigration.” Although no company executives have been detained, the
investigation is ongoing with the execution of search warrants only the first
part in the enforcement action.
In addition, on May 12, 2008, ICE special agents detained nearly 400 works at
Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant, in Iowa and
seized dozens of fraudulent permanent resident alien cards from the plant’s
human resources department. At least one supervisor has since pleaded guilty to
conspiring to hire illegal immigrants and aiding and abetting their hiring and
faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
These recent events highlight ICE’s strategy of sending a strong deterrent
message to employers by conducting large-scale enforcement actions which
immediately impact a company’s bottom line. In addition to the lost profits
incurred by companies during an enforcement action (which may include shutting
down a plant for a period of time because of lack of workers), ICE is focused on
pursuing criminal enforcement actions against a company’s supervisors and
potentially the company itself. ICE’s current strategy differs dramatically from
the approach of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) which
focused on imposing civil fines on employers who hired illegal aliens. Today,
ICE relies on large-scale enforcement actions, criminal prosecutions and the
seizure of company assets to gain compliance from businesses.
For example, in 2002, ICE made 25 criminal arrests and 485 administrative
arrests. In 2007, ICE made 863 criminal arrests and 4077 administrative arrests.
ICE is on track to far surpass those numbers in 2008. As of August 12, 2008
(prior to the recent enforcement action at Howard Industries), ICE had made 1022
criminal arrests and 3900 administrative arrests.
These enforcement actions highlight the need for companies to have
comprehensive human resources policies regarding the hiring and employment of
their workers to ensure that all workers are, and continue to be, authorized to
work in the United States. In addition, companies need to regularly monitor
these policies to ensure that their managers are not turning a blind eye to
evidence that a worker may be unauthorized, while at the same time, complying
with all relevant anti-discrimination laws.
McGuireWoods has extensive experience in handling matters involving workforce
authorization, in dealing with ICE and DHS in situations such as that presented
by the recent worksite enforcement actions, and in helping companies to address
immigration-related concerns through advice, compliance auditing, internal
investigations, and design and implementation of immigration-related compliance
programs. If you wish to discuss the recent worksite enforcement actions in
greater detail, or to receive assistance in a related matter, you may contact