On March 3, in a Southern Mississippi federal court an HR manager was sentenced to six months home detention in a criminal proceeding that involved violation of federal immigration laws in the employment of undocumented workers. Jose Gonzalez had pled guilty in December 2009 to hiring hundreds of illegal aliens while serving as human resources manager for Howard Industries in Laurel, Mississippi. Although facing up to five years in prison, federal judge Keith Starrett decided home detention was a more appropriate penalty than imprisonment for Gonzalez. He was also fined $4000 for his actions. Howard Industries had already paid a $2.5 million fine for its role in these immigration employment offenses.
On the heels of a recent post wondering what the heck unions are doing to organize workers who are surely bummed about the state of their employment in these tough economic times, it comes to light that organized labor is trying hard to unionize workers at carwashes in Los Angeles. Before you ridicule this effort, consider a few facts.
Yesterday, significant parts of Arizona’s new and controversial immigration law were ruled invalid by a federal judge. (Read here.) Undoubtedly, there will be an appeal, so who knows what will eventually happen? Not many people disagree with the proposition that there should be a federal overhaul of immigration law. But Congress isn’t about to act on this before the November elections, and it’s unlikely Congress will act on it after the elections.
One of our country’s most divisive issues is immigration. While this issue has various dimensions, it’s resolution is critical to employers and an important part of employment law. Everyone seems to agree that reform is needed. No one seems to agree on what the reform should be. As noted in a recent post, the current negative view of immigration belies who we are as a nation and causes the enactment of well-intentioned but unhelpful state laws.
Arizona’s state legislature has been in an immigration crackdown mode since 2006 when it passed a law to dissolve companies with a pattern of hiring illegal immigrants. In 2009, it became a crime for a state government worker to give benefits to an illegal immigrant. According to the Los Angeles Times, the legislature has now enacted a bill making it a misdemeanor for an immigrant to lack proper paperwork and requiring police officers to investigate a person’s immigration status if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an illegal immigrant.
Two of my colleagues at Miller & Martin have written an update on a recent notice of inspection from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The notice was sent to 180 employers across the country announcing a comprehensive review of each employer’s Form I-9′s. ICE is increasing its enforcement activity on immigration matters, so more of the same should be expected over time.
According to the New York Times, a group of West African employees in Colorado has filed discrimination charges against Wal-Mart with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Some of the employees had worked for Wal-Mart for several years, claim they had never been disciplined or given bad performance reviews until recently, and contend they were fired because management wanted to get rid of them to give their jobs to local people who were out of work.
Here’s a brief on few things that have happened while I’ve been loafing. Jobs continue to decline. Most people who have jobs hate them. Bonuses for the haves continue to increase. Employees continue to kill co-workers with guns. Guns have made their way into NBA locker rooms. The immigration fight continues, not to mention health care. Record number of discrimination charges are filed with the EEOC. The Man Gene is threatened by The Word Gene (yeah, right).
According to the New York Times, immigration reform is still alive and well. To blunt doubt that the Obama administration is still committed to taking on this divisive issue in early 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that a new plan is in the works.
The debate on what to do about illegal immigrants already in the U.S. is still vehement. Immigration law and enforcement are still in shambles. So, the government is forcing employers to do what it can’t or won’t do.
The 14th annual Advanced Employment Issues Symposium (AEIS) is underway in Nashville, I again have the privilege of serving as moderator. The program will be repeated in Las Vegas on October 29-30. Call M. Lee Smith Publishers at 1-800-274-6774 for more information. Here’s a taste of what you can choose from if you attend.
The E-Verify rule requiring certain federal contractors and subcontractors to enroll in and use the E-Verify system is moving toward its September 8 implementation. For more, check out Ross Runkel and Dan Schwartz.
On August 19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule effectively rescinding its previously proposed rules setting out safe harbor procedures for employers who receive a No-Match letter from the Social Security Administration. Click here to see an alert on this subject prepared by Miller & Martin.
As noted in the Delaware Employment Law Blog, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has re-opened the filing period for 2009 H-2B petitions. USCIS announced in January that it had approved a sufficient number of petitions to meet the annual cap of 66,000. As it turns out, that’s not the case.
The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is being pilloried by immigrant advocacy groups for continuing immigration policies used by the George W. Bush administration. In response, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says that immigration authorities have backed away from the Bush administration’s mass factory roundups of illegal immigrant workers in favor of audits of employee paperwork at hundreds of businesses across the country. Federal criminal prosecutions for immigration violations have actually increased this year, however.
“Immigration raid” brings to mind ICE agents descending unannounced on an employer that relies heavily on immigrant labor. Arrests are made. Chaos spills out of the workplace into a community. As the Los Angeles Times reports, a “desktop” or “computer” raid isn’t as dramatic but causes just as much disruption.
A federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1), imposes a mandatory two-year prison sentence on anyone convicted of other crimes if, during the commission of those other crimes, the offender “knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person.” This statute has been widely used to prosecute illegal workers.
The effective date of the e-verify rule applicable to federal contractors and subcontractors has again been delayed — until June 30, 2009. Check out Michael Moore for more on this development.
On the heels of President Obama’s declaration that immigration reform is one of his priorities, the rival AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor groups have joined forces to support reform. According to the New York Times, the two groups endorse legalizing the status of illegal immigrants already in the U.S and oppose any large new program for employers to bring in temporary immigrant workers.
After his presidency, Barack Obama should be fully prepared to become a professional juggler. The economy. Health care. Education. Energy. Now immigration reform. And that’s a partial list.