On August 31, 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced that Iowa business owner Samira Zuniga (“Zuniga”) pleaded guilty to harboring undocumented workers. According to ICE, Zuniga owned Xtreme Construction (“Xtreme”), a company who operated as a residential roofing contractor in Eastern Iowa.
On April 26, 2011, ICE allegedly arrested nine undocumented workers while they were working a residential roofing job for Xtreme. According to ICE, Zuniga faces maximum penalties of 15 years in prison, $500,000 in fines, and six years supervised release after her prison sentence.
Corporate Immigration Attorney’s Take:
ICE is serious about enforcing immigration law against employers, even against smaller ones. “Harboring” as the government sees it now, includes providing employment when the employer either knows directly or acts in reckless disregard with respect to knowledge that the workers are not authorized. Penalties for harboring are under RICO, a much more aggressive statute, which allows for long sentences, forfeitures, and devastating fines. Employers who turn a blind eye, and do not take steps such as internal I-9 audits and training, face the possibility of very serious consequences. Employers should undergo immigration compliance training and implement and maintain immigration compliance plans, policies and procedures, including internal I-9 audits and hiring personnel on how to properly administer I-9s, so that they have a defense if ICE investigates their hiring practices.
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