Mississippi employers "willfully" hired illegals and should be prosecuted

That big set of raids on seven Mississippi businesses employing hundreds of illegal aliens is turning up some interesting data. The fact that nearly seven hundred of their workers were in the country illegally and ineligible to hold jobs is bad enough, but it’s increasingly clear that the employers knew about it and were actively engaged in breaking the law.

Six of seven Mississippi chicken processing plants raided Wednesday were “willfully and unlawfully” employing people who lacked authorization to work in the United States, including workers wearing electronic monitoring bracelets at work for previous immigration violations, according to unsealed court documents.

Federal investigators behind the biggest immigration raid in a decade relied on confidential informants inside the plants in addition to data from the monitoring bracelets to help make their case, according to the documents.

The sworn statements supported the search warrants that led a judge to authorize Wednesday’s raids, and aren’t official charges, but give the first detailed look at the evidence involved in what Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have described as a yearlong investigation.

These employers are facing a lot of trouble, as well they should. One spokesperson for Koch Foods (one of the chicken processing plants that was raided) said they have, “a strict and thorough employment verification policy.” Seriously? Some of the employees were literally wearing ankle monitors from previous illegal immigration arrests. ICE reports that many of the workers were using their real names, but made-up social security numbers.

Mississippi has a law on the books making the use of E-Verify mandatory when hiring. (It’s optional at the federal level.) If they ran any of those names and SSNs through the system they would have immediately seen that they weren’t legitimate. The investigation also suggests that some of the plant managers were submitting fraudulent timecards for imaginary workers and then keeping the paychecks for themselves. There was a lot more going on here than just illegal immigrant employment violations.

The real problem is that so few executives at companies engaged in this activity are ever convicted and sentenced. You can deport all 700 of those illegal aliens and another 700 will show up to take their place in short order. ICE has been getting better about prosecuting the employers (the owner of a Tennessee meatpacking plant was sentenced to prison last year for similar charges) but it’s an uphill battle. Too often, the owners claim that they simply didn’t know it was going on and some low-level drone takes the fall. Others employ contracting firms to supply them with workers, shifting the blame to those third parties.

As I mentioned above, deporting the workers, while necessary, isn’t going to fix things in the long run. If you eliminate the source of jobs for illegal aliens, the motivation to cross our border illegally drops significantly. Some of us were discussing this on Twitter last night and it seems to be an area where both sides can support such a solution. As of this writing, this tweet I put up yesterday evening has already garnered more than 4,000 likes, roughly a thousand retweets and hundreds of replies.

Meanwhile, all the media is focusing on today is the crying children whose parents were detained. That’s not going to solve anything. The children of legal workers – immigrant or native-born – don’t need to worry about their parents being taken away. We can do better at shutting down illegal alien employment. We must do better.

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