U.S. immigration officials announce their largest ever worksite enforcement action. In raids across the country, agents arrested more than 1,100 unauthorized employees at IFCO Systems, a distributor of wooden pallets. They also arrested seven officers of the company.
The executives are charged with conspiring to "harbor and induce illegal aliens to reside in the U.S." Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff says the operation is part of a shift in strategy aimed at reversing widespread tolerance for the use of illegal foreign workers.
The case started with a tip from an employee at an IFCO site near Albany, N.Y. According to the affidavit, early last year the employee saw colleagues ripping up their W-2 forms. He said an assistant general manager told him the workers were illegal, so they wouldn't be filing taxes anyway. As the investigation began, other disgruntled employees came forward.
Secretary Chertoff says this kind of action is aimed at the worst offenders, "employers who knowingly or recklessly hire unauthorized workers" who are vulnerable to being "exploited or injured on the job."
The current operation, officials say, is larger than the arrests at a number of Wal-Mart stores two years ago. Toughened immigration measures are pending in Congress, which returns from its spring recess next week. Analysts say a number of proposed changes would make sweeping raids like the most recent one on IFCO far easier to carry out.