The U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a Washington-based business will pay $1 million in fines for employing unauthorized workers.
“There is a trend of holding employers criminally responsible for employing unauthorized workers,” says Ryan Adair, MSEC’s Manager of Immigration Services. “Gone are the days when employers just received a nominal fine and a slap on the wrist for this kind of misconduct.”
HerbCo, an organic herb grower, pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring unauthorized workers in violation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. HerbCo executives pleaded guilty to felony charges that included harboring, concealing, and shielding an illegal alien and encouraging illegal aliens to remain in the United States in violation of immigration law. The plea carries a $1 million fine and five years’ probation.
An ICE investigation revealed that when HerbCo realized that its employees were not authorized to work in the United States, it continued to employ them and paid them in cash to avoid detection. The investigation also revealed that it did so after telling ICE investigators that it had terminated all unauthorized workers following a previous ICE audit of its I-9 files. According to ICE, the earlier audit uncovered that more than 200 of the company’s 300 employees had provided suspect documents for I-9 purposes.
HerbCo evidently did initially terminate employment of the unauthorized workers but found that replacement workers did not have the packing skills needed to keep pace with high business demand. To fill outstanding orders, HerbCo brought back the unauthorized workers for a secret night shift. The apparent purpose of the night shift was to ensure that the unauthorized workers would not come into contact with replacement workers and would otherwise remain hidden from government investigators.