Thursday, April 20, 2006

a thousand arrests

yesterday's raids at ifco systems netted more than 1,000 undocumented workers across the country. that's a lot of people for just one company. so how many managers and executives were arrested?

Seven current and former managers of IFCO Systems, which has offices in several states, were arrested and charged in connection with the employment of illegal immigrants, said U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby in Albany, New York.

Suddaby said two lower level employees were also charged in the case.

seven managers and two "lower level employees". that's it? these nine people are the only ones who knew about undocumented workers and looked the other way? it doesn't seem quite fair or realistic that more than a thousand immigrant grunts are taken away but only seven members of management get arrested. that doesn't sound like much of a crackdown on the employer to me; it sounds like a dog and pony show.

A customs official said federal authorities checked a "sample" of 5,800 IFCO employee records last year and found that 53 percent had faulty Social Security numbers.

"They were using Social Security numbers of people that were dead, of children or just different individuals that did not work at IFCO," Immigration and Customs agency chief Julie Myers told CNN.

"The Social Security Administration had written IFCO over 13 times and told them, 'Listen, You have a problem. You have over a thousand employees that have faulty Social Security numbers. And we consider that to be a big problem.' And IFCO did not do anything about it," Myers said.

Myers said a yearlong investigation revealed that IFCO managers had induced illegal immigrants to work there, telling some of them to doctor W-2 tax forms or saying that they did not need to fill out any documentation at all.

53 percent is a lot. reportedly, these workers were earning 25 cents a pallet:

He said his pay was based on contract — a quarter for every pallet he built. He said he typically put together about 400 pallets a day on nine to 10 hours of work.

this is san antonio, so maybe indy workers were making more (or less), but let's do some math.

$0.25 × 400 pallets/day = $100/day
$100/day ÷ 10 hours/day = $10/hour

not a good wage, but better than working at mcdonald's. so much for the idea that these workers were being paid less than minimum wage. after all, everyone knows that if you want to pay sub-minimum wage, you'd do better just offshoring the whole factory.

i still haven't seen any discussion of this on the indiana blogs. for awhile i was browsing technorati and google blogsearch for raid-blogging but i think i'm going to stop, as it's only led me to hate-filled sites like this one that make me tremble with revulsion. (though i must say i got a big chuckle out of this post... um, that picture doesn't mean what you think it does, buddy.)

update: DHS has posted its announcement:

Yesterday, ICE agents arrested seven current and former manages of IFCO pursuant to criminal complaints issued in the Northern District of New York. All these individuals are charged with conspiring to transport, harbor, and encourage and induce illegal aliens to reside in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain, in violation of Title 8, USC Section 1324 (a). The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each alien with respect to whom the violation takes place. Two other IFCO employees were arrested on criminal charges relating to fraudulent documents.

In addition to the criminal arrests, ICE agents yesterday conducted "consent" searches or executed criminal search warrants at more than 40 IFCO plants and related locations in 26 states that resulted in the apprehension of approximately 1,187 illegal alien IFCO employees. Three of the criminal search warrants were executed at residences in Guilderland, NY, where IFCO was allegedly housing illegal alien employees.

The consent searches and search warrants were conducted at locations in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah.

10 years per aliens × a whole bunch of aliens = you will probably die in jail. the arrestee ratio of manager-to-immigrant seems very low, but those token manager arrestees face a lot of hard time.

DHS also offers some details of the investigation:

According to a government affidavit filed in the Northern District of New York, the investigation began in February 2005 when ICE agents received information that IFCO workers in Guilderland, NY, were witnessed ripping up their W-2 tax forms and that an IFCO assistant general manager had explained that these workers were illegal aliens, had fake Social Security cards and did not intend to file tax returns.

According to the affidavit, subsequent investigation indicated that IFCO officials transported illegal aliens to and from work; paid rent for the housing of illegal alien employees; and deducted money from the aliens' monthly paychecks to cover these expenses. Former IFCO employees also said it was common practice for IFCO to hire workers who lacked social security cards or produced bogus identification cards.

The affidavit also alleges that IFCO officials knowingly hired an illegal alien who was an informant for ICE. In numerous recorded conversations, IFCO officials reimbursed this person for obtaining fraudulent identity documents for other illegal alien employees; used the person to recruit other illegal workers; and advised the person and other illegal alien employees on how to avoid law enforcement detection, the affidavit alleges.

there's also a list of the seven managers and two "lower-level employees" along with brief job descriptions, which conveniently saves me from having to google them myself like i've been doing at masson's blog.

2nd update: indy star is reporting that "with one exception", the arrested immigrants are being released and given court dates.

as always, tread carefully before entering the indy star message board. people there are rabid.

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