2.7 Million Fine and Possible Jail for Michigan Dairy Farmers Based On Alleged Immigration Violation
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on June 28, 2011 that a Michigan dairy farm and its two owners pleaded guilty to charges of employing illegal aliens, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The farmers wil be fined 2.7 million dollars, and they face possible jail time.
Per ICE, "Johannes Martinus Verhaar and Anthonia Marjanne Verhaar own Aquila Farms LLC., a dairy operation based in Bad Axe, Mich. Court records revealed that from about 2000 through 2007, the dairy employed 78 different illegal aliens, which constituted almost 75 percent of its workforce over that time period. Aquila Farms failed to conduct the necessary inquiries to determine the employment eligibility of its work force, as required by federal immigration laws."
"Criminal charges and fines are among the government's most effective tools to ensure employers maintain a legal workforce," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Detroit. "The charges and significant fines here represent HSI's firm commitment to holding employers accountable."
ICE stated that "According to the investigation, of the 78 illegal aliens hired by the Verhaars, some were hired on multiple occasions using different names or social security numbers despite the Verhaars' being notified by both the Social Security Administration and ICE that its employees were not authorized to work in the United States. The defendants encouraged or induced the illegal aliens to reside in the United States by providing them with employment and free housing on the farm, away from scrutiny by ICE and the surrounding community. As part of the agreement reached with the government, the Verhaars pleaded guilty to hiring illegal aliens, a charge that carries a term of imprisonment of up to six months and a $3,000 fine per hire. Aquila Farms pleaded guilty to harboring illegal aliens, a felony which carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and additional fines. The Verhaars and Aquila Farms agreed to pay fines and a payment in lieu of forfeiture totaling $2,734,000."
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