From time to time, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will perform audits in order to ensure proper immigration policies and procedures are being followed in the workplace. Recently, one of these audits was completed at Crunch Pak, a central Washington apple-packaging company. Based on ICE's findings, hundreds of workers could lose their jobs as early as May 19.
The audit found various discrepancies in Crunch Pak's payroll. After the audit, the company quickly notified its employees that they must provide proper documentation, showing that they are legally permitted to work in the United States. Amy Philpott, a spokesperson for the company, confirmed the audit took place but refused to discuss how many employees may be impacted. “What the company wants is for every employee to have the chance to correct their information or amend their paperwork,” Philpott said. Meanwhile, an ICE spokesperson said the agency will not confirm or deny any pending audits.
These audits are no small feats. In fact, this specific audit began in August 2013. Any workers who were considered by ICE to be “under review” were notified in September 2013. In this case, it is estimated that 90% of Crunch Pak's workers received notifications. The company currently employs 900 people in Cashmere, Washington.
When this type of audit, known as an I-9 audit, is executed, employees are granted only 10 days to rectify any issues. Employees were notified of any discrepancies when they picked up their latest paycheck. Attached to their checks were “notification letter[s] and blank immigration-information form[s]” that the individuals could use to fix any errors present in their records.
So, how often are these audits done? They are actually being done with a lot more frequency since President Obama took office. In fact, thousands of audits have been administered during his administration. The thought process is that companies will be discouraged from hiring workers who are in the United States without documentation. If an employer is found to be unlawfully hiring immigrants, he or she can face fines and even criminal charges.
While some say that these audits help to prevent immigrants from being taken advantage of by unsavory employers, immigration advocates believe that they push “workers further underground by causing mass layoffs” and disrupting businesses. Some of the employees at Crunch Pak were concerned about the aftermath of this audit and a walkout was organized to protest the possible layoffs. The majority of the 50 workers who walked out had been given notices.
It is important that employers follow rules set by the federal government with regards to immigrant workers. However, is this the best way to enforce these rules? Many of the workers given notices at Crunch Pak have been working for the company for 12 years or more. In addition, their income from Crunch Pak is crucial to support their families. How will they manage without it?
Are there better ways to go about enforcing these various immigration laws and policies? Does the federal government need to revise its procedures when it comes to undocumented immigrant workers?