Worksite Raids by ICE to Increase Employer Compliance with U.S. Immigration Laws

September 2007

Contributed by Keil Hackley to the Weston Express

On February 22, 2007 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, conducted raids at 63 locations of the Florida based company Rosenbaum-Cunningham International (RCI). The worksite enforcement investigation resulted in the arrest of RCI ‘s President, Vice President and Comptroller. The charges brought against them included violations of U.S. immigration law alleging the top executives had knowingly hired and harbored undocumented workers. During the ICE raid, the government agency further arrested close to 200 individuals suspected of working without proper work authorization.

RCI is a nationwide business providing janitorial services on a subcontract basis to theme restaurant chains and hospitality venues, such as the Hardrock Café, Dave & Busters , China Grill, House of Blues, and the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. In a statement, ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers commended Grand Traverse for its business interactions with RCI . The company had requested to see the I-9 forms, or employment eligibility documents, of all the RCI employees assigned to work at Grand Traverse. RCI ‘s alleged response was to purchase fake green cards and issuing bonuses to RCI supervisors helping in the company’s illegal employment scheme.

If convicted, RCI principals could face up to 10 years in prison plus restitution to the government. Although in the case of RCI , the restaurants and resorts contracting the cleaning and grounds maintenance service were not targeted, ICE has urged U.S. employers to check their subcontractors by asking for a review of their workers’ I-9 documents. The example of RCI clearly shows that ICE has been actively targeting U.S. employers knowingly hiring undocumented workers, ready to criminally prosecute perpetrators and demand asset forfeitures. Arrests following worksite enforcement investigations have dramatically increased from pre ICE days. Whereas in 2002, arrests in conjunction with criminal violations of U.S. immigration law totaled 25, during the 2006 fiscal year, 716 arrests were made. Also, individuals who have been arrested on administrative immigration violations, i.e. unlawful presence in the U.S. , have risen from 485 in 2002 to 3,667 in 2006.

Current ICE practices are much tougher than the administrative fines of the past, which failed to effectively deter U.S. employers accused of hiring and employing unauthorized workers. In fact, employers mainly considered these fines to be the “cost of doing business”. For the most part, they ignored administrative fines, paid them in an untimely fashion or mitigated them down over several years.

M. Keil Hackley is the Senior Partner of the immigration law firm Hackley & Robertson, P.A. located in the Sawgrass Corporate Park in Sunrise, FL. You can contact her at 954-349-4994 or via email: kh@hackleyserrone.com