Steel foundry in Berkeley loses one third of workforce to I-9 'silent raid'

"Over the last few months, an East Bay steel company has been shedding about a third of its work force and it's not because of the economy. Pacific Steel was served with what immigrant advocates call a "silent raid." The company was audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to find out how many employees did not have proper work documents. ... Among those who have been fired, was Juan Zaragoza, who has been with pacific steel for 21 years. He said he was told he is no longer eligible to work at the company. David DeHerrera has been with Pacific Steel for 12 years and has two weeks to get his documents in order -- something he knows he cannot do. ... During the audit, ICE agents inspect the company's payroll documents to see if employees' information matches with valid social security numbers. At Pacific Steel, 200 employees were flagged or fired. ... ICE told ABC7 that ... across the country so far, they have carried out more than 2,500 [silent raids] and they have sought criminal charges against more than 200 employers and managers." - KGO/TV, Dec. 18, 2011.

"Those let go from the third largest foundry in the United States include many highly skilled workers who have been at the company for decades.  “It’s very sad,” said spokeswoman Elisabeth Jewel from the firm Aroner, Jewel & Ellis Partners. “The employees who are being terminated now have the most seniority. Many have been there 20 to 30 years. They have kids in the public school. They pay taxes. They are fully invested in American life. It’s been a really wrenching situation – obviously for the workers – but also for the company.”  In February, Pacific Steel, which was founded in Berkeley in 1934 by the Genger family and is still family-owned, got a request by ICE, the US Immigration and Customs Authority, an agency within Homeland Security, to examine I-9 documents, said Jewel. The department came back and reported that the social security numbers of 200 of the company’s 600 workers didn’t match up.  The employees were given a chance to provide new documentation to prove they were legally working in the US. Only a few were able to do that, said Jewel." - Berkeleyside, Dec. 19, 2011.