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Immigration Law

Fed Rack Up Major Immigration-Related Fines, Settlements Against Employers

Washington Apple Orchard Fined $2.25M - "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reached a multimillion dollar settlement Tuesday with Prescott-based Broetje Orchards, LLC, for its civil violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act related to verifying U.S. employment eligibility.

The Eastern Washington company will pay $2.25 million in civil penalties. This will remedy Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form I-9) issues uncovered during an administrative audit by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The latest audit conducted last summer revealed that nearly 950 of the company’s employees were suspected of not being authorized to work in the United States.

Under the settlement agreement, Broetje Orchards does not admit to any criminal wrongdoing, but does acknowledge HSI auditors found that it continued to employ unauthorized workers after being advised by ICE those employees did not have permission to work in the United States. The agreement further calls for the firm to pay a lump sum fine to ICE within 30 days from the time the government invoices the company. On paying the fine, Broetje Orchards will be fully released from any further civil or criminal liability associated with conduct alleged by HSI to date." - ICE, June 4, 2015.

California Farm Labor Contractor Settles With DOJ for $320K- "The Justice Department reached an agreement today with Luis Esparza Services, Inc. (LES), a farm labor contractor company based in Bakersfield, California, resolving claims that the company discriminated against individuals because of citizenship status in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This agreement contains the largest civil penalty the Justice Department has ever secured to resolve a discrimination claim under the INA.

The Justice Department’s investigation found that LES required work-authorized non-U.S. citizens to produce documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security as a condition of employment, but did not require the same of U.S. citizen workers. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on workers during the employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status.

Under the settlement agreement, LES will pay $320,000 in civil penalties; compensate a worker who lost wages due to LES’s employment eligibility verification practices; undergo training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; revise its employment eligibility verification policies; and be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices for three years." - DOJ, May 27, 2015.