Friday, May 23, 2008

Workplace Enforcement's Silent Victims

Lynn Woolsey Chairwoman of the "Workforce Protection Subcommittee Committee on House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections" [I am not making that up...if it's a typo, that's what was there and I cut and pasted the title] testified before Congress on May 20, 2008.   The subject: what enforcement is doing to the children of illegal migrants.  I will just leave you some of the most important excerpts from her presentation (the BOLD HIGHLIGHTS are my addition, btw):

"Today, we will explore the effects of the ICE raids on the children of immigrant parents. Before 2006, the
Bush Administration`s record on enforcement was not very good...But by 2006, ICE had increased its enforcement activities and made about 4,400 worksite arrests, more than triple than the year before...In December, 2006, ICE launched ``Operation Wagon Train`` the largest worksite operation in history.  More than 1,000 ICE agents arrested about 1,300 people at 6 Swift & Co.meat processing plants located around the country. Also in 2006, ICE launched a nationwide operation called ``Operation Return to Sender,`` which resulted in the 23,000 arrests at worksites and other locations, including people`s homes..."

"In 2007 and now in 2008, worksite raids and raids at other locations have continued at a steady pace. Between October 2006 and January 2007 ICE raids in California resulted in the arrest of over 800 undocumented immigrants. In March of 2007, ICE conducted raids in San Rafael and Novato, cities in my district. And just last week, ICE conducted its biggest workplace raid this year at a meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa. Of the 800-900 workers at the plant, over 300 were arrested. Twelve of those arrested
were children between the ages of 15 and 17
. They were working at the plant in violation of child labor laws. As of last Thursday, they were still being detained. And we now know that ICE conducted this raid even as the Department of Labor and Iowa state officials were investigating the owner of the plant for child labor violations...

"We are very concerned that the raid will have the effect of derailing the investigation. But today, we are looking at the impact of the raids on the children. There are about 4.7 million children with who have at least at least one parent who is undocumented. Of that number 3.1 million, or ---2/3 of these children----are U.S. citizens. While we do not know the exact number of children who have
had a parent arrested or deported, we know that thousands of children have been affected and that most of them are U.S. citizens themselves. There will also be testimony today about the ICE guidelines, which were put into place in November 2007 and which outline humanitarian concerns officials should follow when conducting raids, are not being followed in a consistent fashion. These guidelines are discretionary, and so ICE officials most likely have no real incentive to follow them. As a result, we are still hearing heartbreaking stories of the impact on children. They have witnessed their parents being arrested. And they have had flashlights shown in their faces late at night. With their families, they have hidden in their houses, basements, closets and some even under their beds, afraid that their parents and other family members will be taken. They have been separated from their families in the cruelest of ways for long periods of time and many of their parents have been deported. Some have been absent from school for day sat a time, and children, especially young children are experiencing depression, separation anxiety, and in some serious cases, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)...

Unless ICE follows humanitarian procedures in conducting these raids, we are still left with traumatized children and communities..."

Monday, May 12, 2008

SHRM Back in D.C. pushing NEVA

SHRM reported yesterday that their President and CEO, Susan R. Meisinger, was in Washington last week urging Congress to replace E-Verify with NEVA.  Their words:

"The employee authorization plan supported by SHRM would be implemented under the proposed New Employee Verification Act (NEVA) (H.R. 5515)—introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas—Meisinger said at a May 6, 2008, House Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on the impact employment verification will have on the Social Security Administration.  NEVA is designed to transform the current paper-based verification process into a state-of-the-art electronic system that is accurate, reliable, cost-efficient, easy-to-use and that shares responsibility among government, employers and employees, she said."

As I understand it, if NEVA happens it will be mandatory for ALL employers, and SHRM's logic is that the system parallels what states are already doing to track down child support violators. According to their release, "[t]he [proposed] new hire reporting program is an electronic portal already used by 90 percent of U.S. employers, which is an improvement over the 60,000 employers currently using the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) E-Verify program on a voluntary basis".

On the same day, Congress heard about H.R. 19, which sets a 7 year implementation of E-Verify for all U.S. employers (seven YEARS to implement an existing THAT'S forward thinking legislation (-:) and, of course, SAVE, which would put a 4 year deadline on compliance.  I remain concerned about NEVA, and the truth is that employers DO have a way of working within the existing E-Verify system which is both painless AND affordable for companies large and small. 

We at i9 Advantage are acutely aware of the various possible legislative solutions and the many more which are being devised on big paper Post It stickers on the Hill...and our clients will be ready for whatever the USG throws their way.  Our existing I-9 Compliance and Audit Solution works both independently of and in harmony with the existing E-Verify program, which is likely to remain the underlying methodology used, given the investment in time and money already made by the USG and participating employers.

In the interim, the audits and scare tactics continue, and our phone continues to ring.  Please do not allow your company to be caught off guard. Give Terry Madden a call at 866-532-4056, tell him Jose sent you, and he'll set up a Netmeeting where we can demo our solution, explain our unbeatable Existing Workforce Audit (EWA) process, and I can answer any legal questions you might have regarding I-9 compliance. 

Find out why America's leading employers have turned to i9 Advantage for a comprehensive I-9 management solution!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Imprisonment of Employer VP Leaves Fishing Industry Reeling*

(*I humbly apologize to my readers for this appalling headline but it proved irresistible and I may never have an opportunity for it again.)

[Readers, take note:  I’ve been telling you for about five years that the threat of jail time against I-9 violating company officials would become a primary weapon of enforcement any day.  That has been increasingly the case, but the enforcement we’ve seen has been driven by Homeland Security and other Federal agencies.  Now, armed with discretion and reflective of the public demand for prosecution of violating employers, Federal Courts are getting into the game, and it’s getting very ugly very fast.]

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported May 1st that a federal judge socked it to Newport-News based fishing enterprise Peabody Corp despite calls for leniency from both the defense attorneys and prosecution.  The sentence for company Vice President (and daughter of founder) Michelle Peabody: 90 days in prison for employing undocumented workers over a four-year period.

According to the article, Peabody Corp. operates trawlers and fishes mostly for scallops.  Ms. Peabody pleaded guilty to employing illegal immigrants.

Her father, William “Frankie” Peabody was sentenced Wednesday to five months of home confinement with electronic monitoring. U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson also ordered Michelle Peabody to serve four months of home detention after she gets out of custody!

The severe sanctions were on TOP of the $6.9 million in fines and forfeitures the Peabody’s had already agreed to pay; the amount represents represents the profits they made using the undocumented workers.  (One can only wonder at the judge’s design of the algorithm distinguishing between fish caught by legal workers versus those caught by unauthorized workers.)

Calling the Peabodys’ conduct ”egregious" ,Jackson told Michelle Peabody that the government could have easily charged her with felony crimes.  As company Vice President, Michelle Peabody handles day-to-day operations and was held largely responsible for employing 126 illegal immigrants over a four-year period, through 2006. Her attorney, Kenneth D. Bell, in arguing for leniency, said he'd never seen in 25 years of practice someone with no criminal record getting jail time for a first misdemeanor offense.

Both sides also agreed that the workers were treated and paid fairly: the workers earned more than $10,000 per fishing trip, the prevailing wage for scallopers.

Good GRIEF!  2 questions: how long are the trips and do you need legal workers, Ms. Peabody??