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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Corso’s Issues Statement after ICE Raid

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan



    Corso’s Flower and Garden Center of Sandusky, Ohio and Castalia, Ohio, the target of ICE raids on June 5, 2018, recently issued a statement concerning ICE’s investigation.

    As you may recall, on June 5, approximately 200 ICE agents swarmed Corso’s two plant nurseries and detained approximately 114 workers suspected of being in the country without proper work authorization. The workers were expected to be placed into deportation proceedings and many criminally charged with identity theft and tax evasion.
    Corso’s press release, which was shared on its Facebook page, read in pertinent part:

    Corso’s is fully complying with the government’s investigation. Corso’s regrets the stress and pain the raid had on our employees and their families…. It is our hope that federal authorities will work diligently to ensure minimal disruption to families of our employees as they execute their orders.

    Corso’s prides itself on being a good corporate citizen and has always made it a priority to operate its business with the utmost integrity, both to its employees and to the community. This means that Corso’s does right by the law, just as it does right by its employees and customers. Corso’s therefore demands proper documentation from all those seeking employment at its facilities and also ensures that all employer taxes, are properly paid.

    Just as Corso’s has strived over the past 77 years to be honest and fair in its dealings with its employees, Corso’s expects its employees to be honest with it as well. Corso’s strives to comply with U.S. employment laws and therefore asks its employees and prospective employees for honest and legitimate identification and documentation. If mistakes were made or if anyone used false, fraudulent, or otherwise disingenuous identification documents or other documents to secure employment at Corso’s, the company was not aware of those things.
    Corso’s looks forward to the resolution of this unfortunate situation and in the interim will continue to focus efforts on serving customers as the investigation proceeds.

    In this case, ICE initially served Notices of Inspection weeks ago and had been auditing the 313 I-9 forms supplied by Corso’s. Before the service of the Notices of Inspection, ICE received tips involving Corso’s and began an investigation in October 2017. A triggering event appears to be the arrest and indictment of Martha Buendia-Chavarria, who was charged with operating a document mill. During the ICE audit, according to ICE, they found 123 I-9 forms which were suspicious due to use of duplicate Social Security numbers and identification belonging to other people.

    It will be interesting to see what the result of the raid is as it relates to Corso’s. If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. Has the Trump Administration Revived ICE Raids?

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in conjunction with the IRS and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, raided Southeastern Provisions, a slaughterhouse near Morristown, Tennessee on April 5, 2018. The raid was pursuant to a criminal search warrant issued by a Federal judge in Eastern District of Tennessee earlier in the week.

    In so doing, ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) initially detained 97 workers, who were transported to a local armory. Of the 97 detained, 86 were put into ICE detention, 10 were arrested on federal criminal charges, and one was arrested on state charges. Later, 32 individuals were released from ICE custody due to a review of their biometrics, which established legal status or were released on their recognizance due to being a single parent with children at home.

    Additionally, the government seized lots of records and documents related to the company’s finances and payroll. After a review of these records and documents, it is expected the federal government will charge Southeastern Provisions with knowingly employing undocumented workers and various tax fraud offenses.

    This raid is very unusual in that ICE has not conducted any such large raids since August 2008, when it raided Howard Industries in Laurel, Mississippi. For the past 10 years, ICE has executed many so-called “silent raids” through the delivery of a Notice of Inspection (NOI)/subpoena. As an example, in January 2018, ICE appeared at 98 of 7-Eleven convenience stores nationwide to deliver NOIs. However, these were not raids pursuant to federal criminal search warrant.

    ICE released a statement about the Southeastern Provisions “operation” which stated HSI encountered “individuals who are determined to be subject to removal, will be administratively arrested and placed in removal proceedings."

    One of my initial questions was why the IRS was involved in the raid. A 26-page affidavit from an IRS Special Agent filed in federal court to obtain a criminal search warrant gives insight as to what led to the IRS’s involvement in the raid. It was due to probable cause to believe the company violated federal law by filing false tax returns, willfully failing to collect federal employment taxes, and evading the assessment and payment of other federal employment taxes.

    According to the affidavit, federal authorities were originally tipped off by bank employees about large cash withdrawals from Citizens Bank in Morristown made by management/owners of Southeastern Provisions. When bank employees questioned the transactions, the affidavit said they were told the cash was used for payroll. Investigators say $25 million in cash was withdrawn from the bank accounts beginning in 2008. Thereafter, for an unknown reason, bank officials toured the slaughterhouse in December 2016 and they were told by management that most of their employees were Hispanic and paid weekly in cash.

    The affidavit also states multiple withdrawals of more than $100,000 were made from Southeastern Provisions bank accounts. On IRS forms, Southeastern Provisions reported only 44 employees to the government. But based on aerial surveillance, 87 vehicles were found parked at the plant, leading authorities to believe the plant was employing 30-40 more undocumented immigrants. Using numbers from the investigation, the government estimated if Southeastern Provisions had properly reported wages to the IRS, they would have an additional $2.5 million payroll taxes from 2013-2016 on top of what they had already paid.

    Besides this information, the government use a confidential informant (referred to as CI-1 in the affidavit), who was hired by Southeastern Provisions. According to CI-1, he never completed any paperwork, such as an I-9 form, nor was he required to show any identification or documentation of lawful status before being hired. The informant said he was told he didn't need a lawful identity to work at the company. He also reported he was paid in cash. Additionally, the production workers were required to work overtime without being paid extra for their overtime hours, according to the informant.

    After the workers were detained, they were taken to a local armory for processing. The individuals who remain detained at the local armory have been taken to an ICE detention facility in Louisiana. Each will appear in Immigration Court, if not already the subject of a prior removal/deportation order. In Immigration Court, the detainees will be able to seek a bond to be posted for their release. There will also be hearings to determine whether there is a legal basis, such as Adjustment of Status, Cancellation of Removal, or asylum, to lawfully remain in the U.S. and obtain a green card.

    The looming question that this raid raises – does this mean ICE raids at employer facilities are back and will be used in worksite enforcement. Only time will tell. I will keep you updated.

    If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  3. ICE’s Inspection Costs Bakery 800 Employees in its Workforce

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    As I have discussing in this blog, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is ramping up it worksite enforcement activities. Recently, after ICE issued a Notice of Inspection (NOI) and Notice of Suspect Documents to an unnamed staffing company for Cloverhill Bakery of Chicago, Illinois, approximately 800 employees were terminated or quit due to being undocumented workers.

    Cloverhill Bakery, a part of the Swiss-based international company, Aryzta AG, lost about 35% of its workforce due to the staffing company’s employees being undocumented. As one can imagine, losing 35% of your workforce has made it difficult to meet production of products for its customers, fast-food chains and supermarkets.

    Although press reports referred to ICE’s action as a raid, it was not such; rather it was an inspection of the staffing company’s employees’ I-9 forms. The inspection of the I-9 forms is accomplished by the delivery of a NOI/subpoena by ICE agents.

    The NOI was issued earlier in 2017 and caused one of the largest groups of employees to lose their jobs due to lack of work authorization in 2017. Since the NOI occurred earlier this year, ICE did not take any actions to detain the 800 undocumented workers. Recently, ICE announced that it planned to detain undocumented workers found at employers’ facilities.

    If you are worried that your company is going to be the next ICE target, I recommend you get prepared now. The best way is to have an immigration attorney, well-versed in I-9 forms and worksite enforcement, conduct an internal I-9 audit. Alternatively, if you want to get a better understanding of immigration compliance for employers, I recommend you read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
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