Federal immigration authorities conducted the largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history on August 25, 2008. In a small southern Mississippi town, federal agents rounded up nearly 600 plant workers suspected of being in the country illegally.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said federal agents arrested the workers in a raid at the Howard Industries Inc. factory in Laurel, Miss, on Monday. “This is the largest targeted workplace enforcement operation we have carried out in the United States to date,” said Gonzales, as quoted in a Reuters article .
Reuters reported that the swoop at the plant, which makes electrical equipment including transformers, was part of an ongoing crackdown on identity theft and fraudulent use of Social Security numbers by illegal immigrants.
The news account notes that the raid comes amid a toughening stance toward illegal immigrants in the United States, where some 12 million live and work in the shadows. Since October 1 last year, more than 4,000 people have been nabbed in stepped-up enforcement raids across the country.
It remains to be seen whether company executives will be prosecuted.
The Associated press reports here that Gonzalez said agents had executed search warrants at both the plant and the company headquarters in nearby Ellisville. She said no company executives had been detained, but this is an “ongoing investigation and yesterday’s action was just the first part.”
The AP report notes that in a statement to the Laurel Leader-Call newspaper, Howard Industries said the company “runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for its jobs.” “It is company policy that it hires only U.S. citizens and legal immigrants,” the statement said.
As noted here, criminal and civil fines against employers has increased markedly since 2007.
Earlier this year, ICE issued worksite enforcement advisory titled “Know Your Workforce: The Key to Immigration Compliance.” The advisory notes: “A recurrent issue encountered in ICE worksite enforcement investigations today is the abuse of the Social Security card by individuals seeking to satisfy the work authorization requirements mandated by federal law. The Social Security card has long been a favorite of fraudulent document vendors. In fact, immigration fraud investigators have coined the term ‘three pack’ to refer to the frequently encountered fraudulent document combination of the Social Security card, the state driver’s license or identity card, and a work authorization document.”
The publication provides some compliance “so that employers do not inadvertently facilitate acts of identity theft within their own workforce.”