Immigration sweeps underscore the extent businesses fear not complying with new rules

LatinaLista — This morning, the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE division was busy.
The department fanned out over 8 states — Arkansas, Florida. Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Tennessee and West Virginia — to capture undocumented workers at worksite raids.

At least, at five of those sites, ICE had the full support of the employer, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, or so the company says.
The company that employs thousands at their chicken processing plants across the country, and who had been the target of a work site raid before, took credit for alerting the government to the fact that some of their employees were engaging in “immigration-related crimes,” such as using bogus identity documents.
In a press release sent to Latina Lista, Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman Ray Atkinson said:

…Pilgrim’s Pride cooperated fully with ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s office to help them apprehend these individuals. In fact, it was Pilgrim’s Pride that uncovered the identity theft situation in Batesville and notified the federal government, and we worked closely with them to identify those individuals who were apprehended at the Batesville site.

Yet, that’s only one site and four other Pilgrim’s Pride plants were raided as well. Also, ICE told local reporters in TN that the raid was part of a year-long investigation.
So, are we to believe that Pilgrim’s Pride worked covertly for one year with the Department of Homeland Security to set up their own people?
If that’s the case, then the Department of Homeland Security has done a great job in their goal of striking fear into the heart of the business community.


According to the Pilgrim’s Pride spokesperson, a combined total of 400 employees were taken into custody at the targeted facilities. Pilgrim’s Pride immediately terminated everyone who was taken into custody and said that they plan to fire anyone who is “found to have engaged in similar misconduct.”
When asked by Latina Lista if the company also identified workers at the other facilities, aside from the Batesville facility mentioned in the press release, spokesman Ray Atkinson emailed the following statement:

We worked with ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s office to help them apprehend these individuals.

Interesting that Pilgrim’s Pride spent a year targeting 400 of their people as possible undocumented workers when in reality only 280 were arrested for identity theft and “other criminal violations in order to get their jobs.” That leaves 120 people who were fired simply for being picked up.
On the heels of this sweep, Pilgrim’s Pride takes great pride in saying that no charges will be filed against the company, since they helped so much in the investigation. Considering what the company went through before, it’s no wonder they would bend over backwards to help.
Yet, it’s rather odd that 400 people were picked up and only 280 arrested since, according to U.S. Department of Justice press release,

A federal grand jury in Tyler, Texas, returned multiple-defendant indictments on April 1, 2008, that remained under seal until today’s operation. The indictments allege that each defendant obtained and used the Social Security account numbers of others to obtain employment with Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. If convicted, each defendant could receive up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The Department of Justice anticipates that a substantial number of those detained will be federally prosecuted.

The press release goes further:

During the investigation leading up to today’s operation, investigators identified numerous identity theft victims. The identity theft victims described to ICE agents a myriad of hardships they suffered as a result of having their identities stolen, including mistaken tax liens, denial of medical and social services benefits, and damage to their credit ratings.
“Criminal cases like these show how illegal immigration can leave behind a trail of victims,” said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. “A significant percentage of identity theft is carried out by illegal aliens trying to avoid detection and gain employment. However, even under the least damaging circumstances, these identity thieves wreak havoc with the credit and tax histories of innocent U.S. citizens who spend years trying to repair the damage.”

While not trying to minimize the hardships and nightmares that a stolen identity wreaks on its victims, I have to take issue with Ms. Myers’ statement when she says – “A significant percentage of identity theft is carried out by illegal aliens trying to avoid detection and gain employment..”
According to a survey released in November 2007 by the Federal Trade Commission, only 1% of identity theft victims report their identity being used for employment purposes.
Since it’s known that undocumented immigrants main purpose of using fake Social Security numbers is to gain employment then Ms. Myers seems to purposely exaggerate the facts to paint the undocumented worker as a hardened criminal intent on causing personal harm.
When in fact, it’s been reported to be the opposite.
When given the opportunity to purchase the documents needed, undocumented immigrants do so willingly and gladly — even when they fall victim themselves to scam artists.
In the same U.S. Department of Justice press release, the government is obviously changing its tune in how they treat undocumented immigrants:

For those arrested solely on immigration violations, that information will assist ICE in making decisions about whether to detain the individual or permit a conditional humanitarian release. Similarly, the information will be provided to the relevant U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state social services agencies so they are fully informed about humanitarian-related issues that may arise in the individual cases being handled through the criminal justice system.

Coming under fire for their harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants surely was a factor in instituting this change – at least on paper. However, with the May 1 deadline approaching of a nationwide observance of the anniversary of the original immigration protest marches, some can’t help but think ICE is trying to send a message.
However, don’t they know that in a true democracy — the harder one tries to send an unpopular message, the louder the response undoubtedly will be.

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23 Comments

  1. Frank said:

    Who is the message unpopular with? Illegal aliens and their supporters, that’s who.
    Loyal Americans are glad that ICE is doing it’s job and they make up the majority in this country.

  2. laura said:

    How nauseating. Tell me how I can boycott Pilgrim’s Pride from this day on.
    There are other companies that called ICE when their workers were trying to unionize. This sounds potentially like a similar scenario.
    As for Ms. Julie “Most Original Costume” Myers – we know to expect that she will try to criminalize undocumented workers.

  3. Jax said:

    The government can always use verifiable information about illegal behavior from any company that has uncovered such activities on its property. This is simply good corporate citizenship.
    Why is this hard to belive?
    Also, why should we care if the fear of getting caught with this activity taking place with their knowledge was the motivating factor?
    Fear is a great motivator.

  4. Horace said:

    “So, are we to believe that Pilgrim’s Pride worked covertly for one year with the Department of Homeland Security to set up their own people?”
    Yes, why not?
    “If that’s the case, then the Department of Homeland Security has done a great job in their goal of striking fear into the heart of the business community.”
    Duh! The purpose of our laws and the enforcment thereof is to deter and to punish. Fear of arrest and conviction is why some people don’t commit crimes. Employers who high illegal aliens should fear the long arm of the law. It’s because of negligence of our government in enforcing our laws that employers haven’t feared prosecution and the reason we find ourselves with millions of illegal aliens in this country today.
    “Interesting that Pilgrim’s Pride spent a year targeting 400 of their people as possible undocumented workers when in reality only 280 were arrested for identity theft and “other criminal violations in order to get their jobs.” That leaves 120 people who were fired simply for being picked up.”
    As you often do, Marisa, you jump to conclusions without having facts to back up your statements. On what basis do say that legal aliens or citizens were fired without cause?
    While not trying to minimize the hardships and nightmares that a stolen identity wreaks on its victims, I have to take issue with Ms. Myers’ statement when she says – “A significant percentage of identity theft is carried out by illegal aliens trying to avoid detection and gain employment..”
    The employer has a record of hiring illegal aliens, an excellent rational for probable cause. It stands to reason that everyone in the plants should be questioned as to their immigration status, after all, not some illegal aliens use fake SSNs, that are not subject to detection as identity theft. I think you’re a silly girl, Marisa, to think that ICE is going to overlook that potential, just because you don’t think it’s playing the game fairly. These people have a job to do, so don’t think that advocacy groups are going to be permitted to tie the hands of ICE by silly constraints. Your arguments sound more like whining than rational commentary.

  5. Texano78704 said:

    Looks like ICE was busy in Houston. They raided a Donut supply warehouse. As usually, the most vulnerable workers n our society are the ones who suffer.
    Longtime residents said this much action in her neighborhood is unusual. “It’s just weird and scary,” Melissa Ramirez said. “We’ve never seen this before.”
    Susanna Martinez said she knew some of the people who worked at the warehouse. She said many of them lived in the row of houses across the street or in a trailer park behind the facility. She said she did not know some of them may have been in the United States illegally.
    “I don’t really know if they were without papers or anything,” she said. “I don’t really know who to blame, but the only thing is that it’s going to be bad for their families because the moms don’t work and they were the only ones working.”

  6. Stentor said:

    ICE’s “change of tune” sounds pretty thin to me. It doesn’t indicate any concrete targets for who they’ll detain and who they won’t, or how well they’ll inform people about humanitarian issues. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their new policy only goes as far as the PR office.

  7. Grandma said:

    “Since it’s known that undocumented immigrants main purpose of using fake Social Security numbers is to gain employment then Ms. Myers seems to purposely exaggerate the facts to paint the undocumented worker as a hardened criminal intent on causing personal harm.”
    And this is okay with you? To steal someone’s identity no matter what the reason? Illegal is illegal and document fraud is document fraud. And now it’s Ms Meyers’ fault that “undocumented workers” are criminals? The fact of the matter is illegal is illegal, whether it’s sneaking into this country or using someone else’s identity. Thank you ICE for doing your job!

  8. Frank said:

    Yes, a person who is working in this country without papers should be and is “vulnerable”. Is there some kind of point to that remark?

  9. EYES OF TEXAS said:

    Nice to see our men and women in ICE uniforms doing the job they are trained for and paid to do. With all the hoopla over the border fence these raids will become more frequent and will encourage some illegal aliens to self deport rather than get tied up in deportation procedures.

  10. Marisa Treviño said:

    “Grandma,” I don’t condone identity fraud and anyone who uses someone’s identity to open up credit card accounts and ruin someone else’s credit history should be punished.
    Yet, from Ms. Myers remarks, one would assume that is what undocumented immigrants do when they use false Social Security numbers. To be quite honest, this practice of using fake SS#s has been going on for over 30 years that I am aware of. Sure, there are those exceptions who act criminally but they comprise the vast minority. SS#s are primarily used to gain employment. To imply that they are using them for anything more is an intentional misleading remark meant to smear the image people have undocumented immigrants. Obviously, it works judging by your’s and some other comments on this site.
    In the survey, I cited in the post it states that only 1% of those who steal identities use them for gaining employment. Since we have Myers’ statement saying that is what these undocumented immigrants are using the SS#s for then we can see that they truly comprise a fraction of all identity thieves. Furthermore, in the study, conducted by the FTC, the majority of people who are victim of this kind of identity theft didn’t even know their identity had been compromised until contacted by the police.
    Since ICE will never be fully transparent to the American public, we don’t know how many of the people they were in touch with, who had their identities stolen, actually knew beforehand that something was happening with the credit/identity.
    Being a journalist, I for one, am not ready to fully put my trust into what Ms. Myers has said, especially since her track record has been less than stellar when it comes to upholding public confidence.

  11. Texano78704 said:

    The real story is that while a number of alleged undocumented workers have a been arrested, not a single employer has been arrested or indicted. I am sure that the management at Pilgrims Pride cooperated to save their own butts.

  12. EYES OF TEXAS said:

    This is a case for passing the Save Act. Then the employer will be totally responsible for any violation of illegal hiring. The E-Verify system is already being used in some states and the Save Act would make all employers have to verify an employees status by matching I.D. with SS numbers.

  13. Frank said:

    It doesn’t matter how many steal SS numbers or someone elses identity. It is a felony to do so. It is also against the law to work under the table and not pay taxes and it is against the law to hold any kind of job in this country if one isn’t here legally. Let’s not play down the real issues here.
    I want to see the employers punished for hiring illegals too and the pro’s claim likewise but they oppose the Save Act which will do just that. Why is that?

  14. laura said:

    The purpose of these raids is to frighten the immigrant community into total submission, and to get all Americans accustomed to the idea of police banging on family’s doors at night without a warrant.
    That is the only purpose.
    This story connects to your earlier story, Marisa, about democracy and voting.
    When a minority is used as scapegoats, the effect is to distract the majority from their actual problems, and also to accustom the majority to a level of state violence they may not have tolerated before. Every democracy is subject to enemies of democracy trying to undermine it – by taking away people’s rights, by grabbing power for themselves, by intimidating large segments of the population. How can this anti-democratic strategy be opposed ?
    As you pointed out in your previous post, a fundamental, critically important element in defending democracy is voting. Abusers of minorities should not be allowed to renew their ticket to power via elections.
    But voting is not enough. Most critical is obtaining and passing on information about what is going on, and raising our voices in the discussion of our national community. Your blog is making a big contribution to passing on important information. Not only that, but we can also discuss the meaning of this information on your blog. (For all who believe in human rights and civil rights, I suggest just ignoring the noise machine of the little racists “Frank, Horace, Jax” etc., people who unfortunately – perhaps due to limited mental horizons – have chosen to be footsoldiers in the anti-democratic struggle of the truly powerful corporate elites).
    Now it is up to us to raise our voices.

  15. Texano78704 said:

    E-verify system? That’s a joke!
    “Most importantly, the database used for verification [E-verify system] is still not sufficiently up to date to meet the [Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996] requirement for accurate verification, especially for naturalized citizens,” the report said.
    Link
    Wow! A database that does not meet 1996 laws and racists like Tancredo, et al, want to use it in 2008! That’s ridiculous! Y’all have an agenda, and it is all about cultural supremacy.

  16. Frank said:

    laura, what part of “this is about illegal aliens and not immigrants or minorities” don’t you understand?

  17. Frank said:

    Texano, the database can be fixed. Any errors that occur with mismatched SS numbers, the employee in question would have a reasonable amount of time to clear up.
    No, you and yours are seeking cultural supremacy. You think that Hispanics should be above the law and allowed to invade our country at will and therefore commit genocide against anyone who isn’t Hispanics by your sheer numbers.

  18. EYES OF TEXAS said:

    The E-verify system is not geared to discriminate against any particular ethnicity. It is to verify that a person can be legally employed in the U.S. If anyone is not in this country legally, they do not have the right to be gainfully employed. The E-verify system must be considered as a way to enforce our labor laws, not as an immigration law. All industrailized nations have some form of labor laws to prevent illegal aliens from taking jobs from its nationals. Why should the U.S. be any different?

  19. Liquidmicro said:

    Your own report discredits your article with its disclaimer on page 4.
    “This consumer survey may not capture all types of identity theft or their associated costs. Situations in which someone creates a fictitious identity by combining personal information from one or more consumers with invented information, rather than using the identity of an existing individual, may not have been captured. This form of fraud, called synthetic ID theft, is not always detectable by the consumer(s) whose information was used.”
    Synthetic ID Fraud is most prevalent, look to Dee’s article of Mr Jesus Garcia in Texas being arrested for John Garcia using Jesus’ SS#. A simple case of Synthetic ID Fraud.
    Your 1% (3.04M persons) for employment purposes is for complete ID Theft and does not include Synthetic ID Theft.

  20. Liquidmicro said:

    “According to a survey released in November 2007 by the Federal Trade Commission, only 1% of identity theft victims report their identity being used for employment purposes.”
    Identity should be changed to name, above.
    From the Survey, page 21.:
    Twelve percent of victims reported one or more misuse other than accessing new or existing financial accounts in the victim’s name, and specified what type(s) of fraudulent activities were committed.
    “Since it’s known that undocumented immigrants main purpose of using fake Social Security numbers is to gain employment then Ms. Myers seems to purposely exaggerate the facts to paint the undocumented worker as a hardened criminal intent on causing personal harm.”
    This Survey only deals with the taking/assuming of another’s name, it does not deal with or include the using of someones SS# as you are stating in your article. Mrs. Myers has it correct in stating, “Since it’s known that undocumented immigrants main purpose of using fake Social Security numbers is to gain employment.”
    From page 11:
    In addition, because the data reported here are the results of a survey of consumers, the data may not capture situations in which someone creates a new identity, rather than using the identity of an existing individual, and uses that fictitious identity to obtain goods or services, i.e. synthetic identity fraud. Whether such instances of synthetic identity fraud will be captured in a consumer survey will depend on whether the actions have been attached to a real person – perhaps the individual whose Social Security number was used in creating the fictitious identity.
    This is what just happened to Jesus Garcia, when John Garcia used Jesus’ SS# to gain employment in Tyler, TX.

  21. gscusa said:

    Marisa, Why are you minizing the crime of identity theft? It’s a crime! Do you know how many people’s tax refunds have been withheld because someone was using their identity? They get a letter from the IRS stating that you earned $15,000 to $20,000 more than you claimed on your forms, in a state you’ve never been to and now you owe 3 to 4 thousand UNPAID taxes. Then it takes months/years to clear it up and you are left without THE REFUND YOU ARE OWED. What world are you living in. Identity theft hurts millions of innocent people every day, my son included, just because he has a Spanish surname, he is easy prey. It takes forever to clean it up. Identity theft is not a victimless crime!!!!!

  22. Horace said:

    Hispanics who conceal their illegal alien friends and relatives better get use to visits by the immigration authorities. It’s no different than if they were citizens suspected of concealing wanted criminals, is it? It’s not easy being an aider and abetter these days. Boo hoo!

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