The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today announced the arrest of seven current and former managers of IFCO Systems North America, Inc. (IFCO) as part of a new initiative to crack down on employers of undocumented workers.
The arrests were made in connection with the “second phase” of the Secure Border Initiative. Phase one primarily focused on increasing security along the borders and the removal and return of illegal immigrants now in the U.S. Phase two, among other things, aims to bolster enforcement of workplace compliance with existing immigration laws by using all the means at its disposal. Where previous enforcement in this area was sporadic and typically involved civil fines and penalties, the IFCO experience illustrates an increased willingness to use criminal sanctions.
An ICE sampling of 5,800 IFCO employees found that approximately 53% of them held “faulty” social security numbers, including those of dead persons, children and people who were not employed by IFCO. The Social Security Administration requested that the company address the situation and received no response. The subsequent raids targeted 40 IFCO plants in 26 states, including Massachusetts.
The seven current and former managers netted in the raids were charged by federal prosecutors with “conspiracy to transport, harbor and encourage illegal workers to reside in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain.” Managers allegedly induced illegal immigrants to work at the various plants by asking them to falsify W-2s and, in some cases, stating that no documentation was necessary for employment.