April 1996, Volume 2, Number 2
INS Raids Farms
Independent Agricultural Workers Union leader Ventura Gutierrez
pressed the INS to check Altman Specialty Plants in San Diego county
for unauthorized workers, which the INS did in mid-March, removing 26
of the 250 workers. The IAWU represents the Altman workers, and asked
the INS to raid the nursery in order "to force the nursery to seek
their legalization" by requesting them as H-2A workers. Gutierrez
argued that the nursery cannot operate with local workers.
Altman fired 45 workers before the INS raid after checking their
Social Security numbers. However, several workers who were returned
to Mexico were back at the nursery within days.
The IAWU won an election at Altman in 1991, and negotiated a first
contract in 1994.
On October 19, 1995, the INS detained over 100 workers at four
Nurseryman's Exchange nurseries in Half Moon Bay, south of San
Francisco, but later released over half of the workers when they
produced work authorization documents. The workers detained had
provided counterfeit work authorization documents to the employer. A
month later, on November 29, 83 illegal immigrants were arrested at a
spot many Half Moon Bay area nurseries use to hire day laborers.
The INS began an investigation of the nurseries in August 1995,
after receiving a tip that unauthorized workers were employed, and
used more than 70 INS and Border Patrol agents, plus the California
Highway Patrol, to surround the nurseries. No employers had been
assessed as of March 1996.
The San Francisco Chronicle published a series of articles on
employer sanctions in mid-March, 1996, reporting that fewer than half
of the 12,700 US employers that INS inspectors recommended be fined
between 1989 and 1994 for employing illegal aliens or not completing
I-9 employee verification forms were in fact fined, including 46 CA
farm operators. By one account, the INS inspected 10 farms per year
between 1989 and 1991.
About 38,000 CA farms reported that they hired labor in 1992, and
there are 1000 state-licensed farm labor contractors who bring
workers to farmers. Another 2000 to 3000 foremen and other
intermediaries play roles in the organization and deployment of a CA
farm labor force that involves about 800,000 individuals, and
generates a peak employment of about 400,000 in September.
Walt Disney was the California employer assessed the highest fine
by the INS--$395,000--and Reynolds Packing in Lodi was the farm
employer fined the most between 1989 and 1994. Disney paid about
two-thirds of the amount assessed; Reynolds paid entire $139,000
assessed. Mario Saikhon in Imperial Valley was assessed $80,000, but
had not yet made any payments to the INS.
The INS has 320 workplace inspectors to check on seven million US
employers. The average INS fine levied on employers between 1989 and
1994 was $1,612. INS fines are often characterized by employers as a
"the cost of doing business."
On March 21, 1996, the INS announced its largest ever fine--a $1.5
million fine on suburban New York janitorial firm Colin Cares for
knowingly hiring over 150 illegal aliens, and for 2,500 cases of
paperwork violations. Over 2,500 unauthorized workers were dismissed
from the company's 4,000 person work force. Colin Cares cleaned
buildings that housed, inter alia, IBM and ATT.
The INS plans to hire 384 additional workplace inspectors in 1996,
bringing the total to about 700 in the 19,000 employee INS.
In addition, there are about 900 federal labor inspectors who
contact the INS if they suspect that illegal aliens are employed when
they check for minimum wage and other violations.
The number of INS workplace inspectors dropped by half between
1989 and 1994. Consequently the number of workplace investigations
dropped from 14,700 in 1989 to 6,000 in 1994, as the INS diverted
resources to deporting criminal aliens and going after immigrant
The INS estimates that 90 percent of US employers comply with laws
that aim to prevent the employment of unauthorized aliens. DOL
investigators, on the other hand, estimate that only about 47 percent
of employers are in compliance with immigration laws. The INS usually
gives three days notice before inspecting workplaces, and obtains
permission from workers before interviewing them--DOL does not.
Some 1,381,465 foreigners were apprehended by the US Border Patrol
in calendar year 1995, up 43 percent from 965,144 in 1994. In some
areas of Arizona, apprehensions increased 500 percent over 1994
levels, and are higher in 1996 than 1995.
Reporters visiting "emigration villages" in the west central
Mexican states of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi and Jalisco found that
most of the Mexicans who migrate to the US each spring for farm jobs
are intending to attempt illegal entry in 1996.
Mexican professionals such as teachers and doctors are reportedly
being drawn to the US because of unemployment in Mexico. According to
a March 4 story in the Wall Street Journal, some teachers who could
earn $35 per week in Mexico prefer $200 per week picking fruits and
vegetables across the border in southern California.
Aurelio Rojas, " Border Guarded, Workplace Ignored: A major flaw
in crackdown on illegal immigration," The San Francisco Chronicle,
March 18, 1996. Leonel Sanchez, " INS sweep at nursery nets unionized
illegal workers," San Diego Union-Tribune, March 15, 1996. Karen
Brandon, "Trumpeted US Plan to Tighten Southern Border Quietly
Fades," Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1996. Dianne Solis, "Mexicans
flood in, fueling US debate," Wall Street Journal, March 1, 1996.
Leonel Sanchez, " Dispute at nursery centers on legal status of
immigrant workers," San Diego Union-Tribune, February 16, 1996.
"Illegal Mexican Immigrants Arrested by INS in Watsonville," San
Francisco Chronicle, November 30, 1995. Ken Hoover, "58 Arrested In
INS Raid On Nursery; Workers suspected of using fake documents," The
San Francisco Chronicle, October 20, 1995.