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"I never believed for a moment these companies really were
unable to find a citizen who wanted the job" - Rep. Tom Tancredo

INS Approves 9/11 Killer’s Visas

Reuters – March 14, 2002

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Angry at the Immigration and Naturalization Service for approving student visas for two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, President Bush on Wednesday told the attorney general to investigate and ordered the beleaguered agency to shape up.

Bush said he was ``stunned'' to learn of the incident. ``I could barely get my coffee down,'' he told a news conference, calling it a ``wake-up call for those who run the INS ...reform as quickly as possible.'' Attorney General John Ashcroft threatened to punish those responsible. But Bush stood by INS Commissioner James Ziglar, who he appointed to the post, saying: ``His responsibility is to reform the INS. Let's give him time to do so.''

On Monday, exactly six months after the Sept. 11 suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Florida flight school where Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi were trained received notification from the INS that their student visas had been approved.

Atta and Al-Shehhi trained at Huffman Aviation International in Venice, Florida, and are believed to have piloted the two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York.

An angry Bush ordered Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to ``get to the bottom of this'' as quickly as possible, the White House said.

In response, Ashcroft tapped the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate the matter, warning: ''Individuals will be held responsible for any professional incompetence that led to this failure, and inferior INS quality-control mechanisms will be reformed.''

``It is inexcusable when document mismanagement leads to a breakdown of this magnitude,'' Ashcroft said. The INS said on Tuesday that Atta and Al-Shehhi were initially notified last summer of the change in their visa status from visitor to student, but that the ``secondary notification'' to the school did not go out until after the paperwork had been done manually.

Atta's application to change his non-immigrant status was approved July 17, 2001, and Al-Shehhi's was approved Aug. 9, 2001, the INS said.

``Notices to students are automatically generated upon approval. Secondary notification to the school occurs later, after data is manually entered at an INS contract facility,'' an INS statement said.

The INS has been the subject of much scrutiny after the Sept. 11 assaults on the United States showed huge gaps in the country's immigration policy.

All 19 of the suspected hijackers who carried out the September attacks had entered the country legally, although three had overstayed their visas.

The latest incident renewed calls for a dramatic shake-up at the immigration service.

``We've got to reform the INS, and we've got to push hard to do so,'' Bush said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, called the incident ``an embarrassing mistake'' that showed the INS had serious problems. He is the chief Senate sponsor of legislation to update technology at the INS and close loopholes in the immigration system.

Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat, said Congress should overhaul the way student visas are issued and monitored. ``This is an agency that is out of control, unable to perform its most basic functions and is in need of radical reform,'' he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration has been working with the agency since the September attacks to get student visa and other immigration records computerized ``so that we can better share information across agencies.''

Ashcroft announced plans last year to reform the INS by splitting its enforcement and service functions. But the plan did not go as far as many lawmakers wanted.

66 Arrested on Immigration, Fraud Charges

The Charlotte Observer – E. Frazier, G. Wright, T. Reed – March 10, 2002

Sixty-six workers at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport have been indicted on immigration and fraud charges as authorities try to root out illegal immigrants who could be blackmailed by terrorists.

The defendants were accused of lying to get their jobs and obtain security badges that may have given them access to restricted areas. Forty-seven of them were arrested at the airport Friday morning.

Virtually all the suspects are Latinos who work for a private company that provides cleaning services. Others work for companies that handle food service, aircraft fueling, ramp operations, airplane service and baggage handling.

All but one of the defendants are believed to be illegal immigrants, authorities say.

Authorities behind the investigation -- called Operation Access Denied -- said the suspects aren't accused of being part of any terrorist group. But they say the alleged immigration violations could have handed terrorists an opportunity.

"Terrorists could use the fact that workers are illegal aliens to blackmail them into assisting the effort to sabotage a plane," U.S. Attorney Bob Conrad said. "That's the concern that motivated this investigation. ... This is a preventative effort."

Conrad said the investigation uncovered no evidence the airport is unsafe. But he added: "We are not going to wait for trouble to come to us. ... The operation we are discussing today is a proactive strike to make a safe airport even safer."

If convicted, the suspects could face prison time and deportation.

Latino leaders in Charlotte described those arrested as hard-working immigrants who've become, in effect, the latest victims of Sept. 11.

"They're noble, honorable and productive citizens who moved to this country hoping for a better life," said José Hernández-Paris, executive director of Charlotte's International House. "The only law they broke was looking for better opportunity."

Conrad said the investigation targeted no specific nationality. He said authorities did not know what they would find when the investigation was launched.

"My hope is that the community would see this for what it is," the prosecutor said, "and that is an effort to make an airport safe, not an effort to target any particular class."

Of the 66 indicted employees, 45 worked at a single firm, Priem Building Services, which cleans the public areas near the boarding gates on Concourses A, B and C. The company is a subsidiary of Virginia-based P&R Services.

Jeronimo Cox, Priem's contract manager in Charlotte, said the company followed the law in its hiring. "All of our employees presented documentation of eligibility to work in the United States," he said. "No one is hired until we do a background check. There was no way for us to know if there was someone who had, as they say, false identification."

Cox said the company lost most of its 55 employees, but a skeleton crew of about a dozen people is working to fulfill the company's contracts while new workers are hired. The jobs pay $6 to $7 an hour to start.

Jerry Orr, the airport's aviation director, said passengers would notice no impact on airport operations. Although Priem was a subcontractor to the airlines, airport crews stepped in Friday to clean in its place. Four other companies had four employees each indicted, and another had two. US Airways, the airport's largest employer with 7,226 workers, had one. US Airways Express had one, as did a maintenance company.

The Charlotte investigation, which involved about 70 federal agents and four interpreters, comes amid a growing number of similar probes nationwide.

Investigations have been conducted at airports in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City and Washington.

Last month, 20 people working at Boston's Logan International Airport were charged with lying to get their jobs or security badges. Security at Logan has been in the spotlight because the two hijacked planes that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York took off from there.

In December, 271 workers at Salt Lake City's international airport were fired after a federal investigation dubbed Operation Safe Travel revealed they might have lied to get their jobs and badges.

Conrad said serious consideration of prosecution in Charlotte began while he was attending a December meeting in Washington of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee and talked to Paul Warner, Utah's U.S. attorney.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Charlotte conducted an audit of all airport employees who had been issued special security badges that may give them access to highly secure areas such as airplanes, runways and ramps.

The audit showed a large number of the badges were backed by questionable documentation. Investigators called the case a prime example of the seriousness of misusing Social Security numbers, and called Friday on all employers to be more vigilant in verifying the identities and Social Security numbers of their workers.

"The individuals involved had various degrees of access to airport facilities and any number of them could have compromised the integrity of the security systems in place," said James Huse, the Social Security Administration's inspector general.

Besides the 66 people indicted, the INS plans to start administrative actions for about 200 other airport workers suspected of being in the country illegally. Those workers didn't have the specialized security badges, Conrad said.

All the defendants have been charged with entering an airport area in violation of Federal Aviation Administration security requirements. Other charges include using fraudulent Social Security numbers, using false alien registration information, and lying to obtain jobs and badges.

"It's my expectation that the indicted individuals will be prosecuted in federal court, and, if convicted, will be deported," Conrad said. - STAFF WRITER TIM FUNK CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.

Tyson Foods Indicted for Smuggling Illegals

Banks Aid Criminals

Mercury News – by K. Oanh Ha – February 28, 2002

Victor Pacheco gave up trying to save money because he found it nearly impossible without a bank account.

``If it's in my pocket, I just want to spend it,'' said Pacheco, a San Jose laborer who's lived in the United States illegally for the past two years.

Saving money will be easier now, said Pacheco. He and a friend opened their first checking accounts last week, taking advantage of more lenient identification requirements adopted by a handful of U.S. banks. Thousands of bank accounts have been opened under the new policy since last winter, when big-name financial institutions like Wells Fargo and Bank of America agreed to allow Mexican immigrants to use Mexican consulate-issued identification cards as proof of identity.

The new policy gives the banks access to an untapped market of millions of undocumented immigrants. Those with new bank accounts no longer need to depend on check cashing centers and markets, which charge as much as 3 percent of a check's value. Demand for the accounts also threatens to undercut another billion-dollar industry -- money transfer services that many Latinos use to wire money home.

Drawing fire

Meanwhile, the appeal to illegal immigrants has drawn fire from groups that want stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

Immigrants can now use the consulate photo ID as the primary proof of identity to open a bank account. A consulate card, commonly known as matricula consular, identifies its holder as a Mexican national.

They also need a second identification, such as a passport or student card with photo. Some banks also ask for either a Social Security number, a federal taxpayer identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service or a signed IRS waiver stating the account holder is a non-resident immigrant.

Before, many banks required the primary identification to be U.S.-issued documents with photos, such as state driver's licenses or passports.

At consulate offices in San Jose and San Francisco, immigrants can sign up for accounts at Wells Fargo booths in the consulate lobby. Wells Fargo has opened roughly 1,000 accounts using the card in the month it has been stationed at the San Jose consulate, said Michael Billeci, Wells Fargo market president for Santa Clara Valley.

Wells Fargo, which is promoting its acceptance of the card throughout its branches in 23 states, is the only bank to advertise the program. It's finding that the program is also reeling Latinos in the country legally into the financial mainstream. This is the bank's biggest push to attract Latino customers, said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Miriam Galicia Duarte.

``Not only has the matricula removed obstacles for them as far as identification, it's increased awareness among this community about how to . . . participate in the financial system of this country,'' said Duarte. Bank of America is finding that demand to use the card has escalated even without promotion. It rolled out a pilot program in Los Angeles, and demand prompted the bank to accept the cards at branches in the Central Valley.

Though the banks do not yet have data on the number of accounts that have been opened using cards, La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles, recently estimated that $20 million has been deposited in new accounts since the programs began.

The Mexican consulates in San Jose and San Francisco report spiked demand for the consular cards. Demand has skyrocketed since Sept. 11 because of security issues. San Francisco and some cities in Southern California now accept the cards as valid identification.

The San Jose consulate issued roughly 3,414 cards last month -- more than double the number in January 2000. Demand for the cards at the San Francisco consulate has more than tripled since Sept. 11 to about 6,500 cards a month. The consulates estimate between 20 percent to 40 percent of those getting cards use them to establish bank accounts.

Immigration reform advocates criticize allowing undocumented immigrants access to banks as legitimizing illegal immigration. There are at least 8.5 million illegal immigrants, most from Mexico, living in the United States, according to Census data. The banks are ``condoning and rewarding illegal immigrants for violating our laws,'' said Barbara Coe, who runs the California Coalition for Immigration Reform. ``The bottom line for them is greed.''

Bank officials, however, say there's nothing illegal about accepting the Mexican identification.

Won't take advantage

A spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Francisco said the agency won't use the new bank policy to track down illegal immigrants.

It's estimated that as many as 40 million individuals across the country do not have bank accounts. One in nine families in Santa Clara County doesn't have a checking account, according to a 2000 Gallup poll. Half of those are Latinos like Mirella Martinez, who rely on fringe financial services to cash checks and pay bills. Some Latino immigrants who carry cash or stash it in their homes are victims of assaults and robberies.

``I will save more now because I know the money is secure at the bank,'' said Martinez, who filled out forms to open a bank account while waiting for her card at the San Jose consulate. ``It'll cost less to cash my checks, too.''

The new accounts also affect money transfer services like Western Union. Many Mexican immigrants who've recently opened checking accounts are now sending relatives their ATM cards. That allows the U.S. residents to bypass the money transfer services and fees and to obtain better exchange rates, say consulate officials. Wells Fargo reports some are using the bank's money transfer program as well. A Western Union spokeswoman said the company welcomes the new competition.

While community advocates praise the move to give more immigrants access to financial services, they stress that banks need to help low-income immigrants gain access to all banking services, not just checking and savings accounts.

``We'd like to see these products lead to other things that will help families build wealth and asset, like getting mortgage loans, '' said Eric Rodriquez of the National Council of La Raza.

Pacheco, who opened an account with Wells Fargo this week, held the same hopes. ``Now I can start thinking about saving and getting a loan to buy a house,'' he said. ``We couldn't enjoy that opportunity before.''

Tyson Hired Over 2,000 Illegals

The New York Times – by Kevin Sack – January 15, 2002

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 9 — Like thousands of his countrymen, Amador Anchondo-Rascon sneaked across the border from Mexico and then followed his dreams. He started at age 20 in the fields of Florida and became a legal resident by marrying an American. He moved to the hill country of McMinnville, Tenn., after hearing that the nurseries there paid well, and then headed west to Shelbyville, where a Tyson Foods chicken- processing plant paid even better.

Mr. Anchondo-Rascon found only a handful of other Mexicans in Shelbyville when he arrived in 1989, but that changed in a hurry thanks to the jobs at Tyson. Over the next decade, the Latino population grew to 2,343 from 92, or 15 percent of the town's residents, and by 1995 Mr. Anchondo- Rascon had concluded that there was enough of a market to open a small grocery. He named it Los Tres Hermanos, after his three sons, and before long he became prosperous.

But it was not only chile ancho and corn flour that he sold. This week, he pleaded guilty in federal court in Chattanooga to acting as a middleman in what prosecutors call a seven-year conspiracy to supply Tyson with more than 2,000 illegal workers and to provide the new arrivals with counterfeit work documents.

Mr. Anchondo-Rascon's story is a familiar one to those who have studied the enormous influx of Hispanics in recent years to small towns in the South and Midwest. With serviceable English and regular contact with Shelbyville's Mexicans, Mr. Anchondo-Rascon became something of a fixer, a multipurpose intermediary between the Hispanic and Anglo communities. He helped white farmers and plant managers find workers. He took Mexicans to used-car dealers and landlords and vouched for their reliability. He was an informal interpreter for the police and the courts. He bought a maroon truck and had the tailgate painted with a mural depicting him as the Jefe de Jefes, the boss of bosses. For a man with a third-grade education who was one of 11 children of a poor farmer, it was quite a success story.

"I felt proud because I felt there was a future for my sons," Mr. Anchondo-Rascon, 43, said in a jailhouse interview this week. "I don't want them to be like I was."

His stature made him a perfect go- between for Tyson plant managers searching for low-wage workers. But in the end, the police and prosecutors say, Tyson's reliance on him led to the indictment in December of the company and six managers in the largest immigrant-smuggling case against an American corporation.

While not speaking extensively about the case, Tyson lawyers have said that corporate officials of the company, which is based in Springdale, Ark., were unaware of any recruitment of illegal immigrants and that the six charged employees had been dismissed or placed on leave. If found guilty, the company could face sanctions and heavy fines.

Prosecutors intend for the Tyson case to send a message. John P. MacCoon, an assistant United States attorney in Chattanooga, said, "It's much more productive, we think, to attack the source, the companies that recruit these illegals, than to pursue endless prosecutions of illegals at the border."

The case against Tyson began when Mr. Anchondo-Rascon's counterfeiting caught the attention of two Shelbyville police officers, William H. Logue Jr. and Donald O. Barber. In the mid-1990's, they became suspicious of the immigration and Social Security cards that Hispanics often handed over when stopped for traffic and other offenses. They confiscated so many fakes that Mr. Barber put them in plastic sleeves, like so many baseball cards.

"We'd say, `Where did you get these?' " Officer Logue said. "Some wouldn't say anything. But some would say `Los Tres Hermanos' and then wouldn't say anything more."

In 1997, an undercover agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service bought two sets of Mr. Anchondo-Rascon's counterfeit cards for $150 each. The two worked together to bring illegal immigrants to Tennessee and provide them with phony papers, the government says. In one early conversation, the indictment says, Mr. Anchondo-Rascon told the agent that he was well connected with his former employers at Tyson and that they routinely solicited him to supply illegal immigrants.

The indictment outlines conversations among Tyson officials, Mr. Anchondo-Rascon and the undercover agent. In 1998, it says, the men met at Tyson's Shelbyville plant with managers, who said they needed 2,000 illegal Guatemalans. In most cited transactions, the smugglers were paid $100 or $200 per worker; corporate checks were used to pay the men "recruitment fees."

Prosecutors have not said how many immigrants Mr. Anchondo- Rascon procured, how he got them, where he got his counterfeit cards and how much he made from smuggling. But Mr. Anchondo-Rascon and his second wife, Robertina, were doing well. They own two stores, five houses and several cars, she said. Now, in exchange for a reduction in the charges against him, Mr. Anchondo-Rascon is cooperating with prosecutors. After pleading guilty on Monday, he spent nearly three hours this week briefing Mr. MacCoon of the United States attorney's office and others, and he is likely to testify.

Mr. Anchondo-Rascon, who in 2000 was arrested in another immigrant- smuggling case and has spent nearly two years in jail, faces a maximum sentence of five years and, because he did not became a naturalized citizen, could be deported. His sentencing, scheduled for May 20, is likely to reflect his level of cooperation.

Mr. Anchondo-Rascon's lawyer, Michael Friedman, suggested that his client's story was so damaging to Tyson that it might encourage the company to enter a plea agreement.

Born in Chihuahua, Mr. Anchondo- Rascon is a soft-spoken man with silver caps on two teeth. In the interview, during which Mr. Friedman did not let him discuss the case, he said he first crossed into the United States illegally in 1979 in a 10-day journey by foot, was quickly captured and sent home, and then soon made the trek again, successfully.

He said his store became a gathering place for Shelbyville's Hispanics in the late 1990's. They came to buy piñatas and coconut juice and compact discs of Latin recording artists.

"They went there because they felt they were in Mexico again," Mr. Anchondo-Rascon said.

Smuggled in by the Busloads

The Seattle Times – by Florangela Davila – December 26, 2001

TOPPENISH, Yakima County — Until recently, shoppers at Las Dos Victorias could purchase not only tamale steamers, piñatas and pan dulce but tickets for a Golden State Transportation bus as well.

The bus company, popular with Latinos, picked up passengers here at the store's First Avenue parking lot, next to a tiny espresso stand, and ferried them south to Oregon, Los Angeles and across the border into Tijuana.

"El Golden" buses cater to the growing Mexican population throughout the West, like the one here in Toppenish, a small agricultural outpost. Bus drivers speak Spanish. Latin music plays on board. Spanish-language movies, especially ones featuring Mexican comic Cantinflas, are screened.

But Alfonso Sandoval said he'll no longer sell bus tickets at his Dos Victorias store.

"I don't want to be involved in any problems," he said last week, shortly after federal authorities handed down criminal indictments against officers and employees of the bus company for their alleged role in an illegal-immigrant smuggling ring.

Golden State Transportation transported illegal immigrants who had already crossed the U.S.-Mexican border. Smugglers would hide the Mexicans in motels and then load them onto buses that would skirt U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints, according to court documents.

Gonzalez Inc., a California corporation doing business as Golden State Transportation, carried 50 to 300 undocumented immigrants a day, seven days a week, principally to Los Angeles, Denver and Yakima, a short drive from Toppenish, authorities charge.

The company, with its leaping-deer logo, had allegedly transported people for a number of smuggling operations and had been paid to deliver people not only across the border but to their final destinations throughout the U.S.

Thirty-three employees of the family-run company, including its founder and owner, managers, ticket agents and dispatchers, were indicted last week in U.S. District Court in Tucson after a two-year investigation triggered by a tip to the Border Patrol in Arizona.

Federal authorities have described the case as the largest immigrant-smuggling case involving a transportation company.

"It's really a milestone in our agency's history in our efforts to combat migrant smuggling," Johnny Williams, Western regional director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), said after the indictments were handed down.

Attorney Tom Henze of Phoenix, who is representing the company in the indictments, could not be reached for comment.

But company attorney Miles Kavaller of Encino, Calif., described owner and founder Francisco Gonzalez as a sort of Horatio Alger: a Mexican immigrant who built a business from one Chevy Suburban into a fleet of more than 100 buses.

"They (Golden State buses) serve the areas where a lot of immigrants live," Kavaller said. "They serve the people who pick apples in Washington, who pick and plant produce in California, who cook and wash the dishes."

The company, which has an office in Yakima, has been operating in Washington for at least five years.

Last week, a receptionist at the Yakima office said the company was still operating its regular schedule and that office manager Martin Delgado was in Seattle scouting out possible new office locations there.

Golden State Transportation is among a growing number of companies accommodating the country's rapidly growing Spanish-speaking immigrant population, a clientele that is especially familiar and fond of traveling via motor coach, said Michele Janis, a spokeswoman with the American Bus Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group.

A second bus company, Transportes Fronteras, also offers service from Yakima to California cities as well as to Tijuana.

Last week at Dos Victorias, three men originally from Pajacuaran in central Mexico said they prefer riding Golden State buses.

The buses are always easy to find, even for the newly arrived, said Ramon, 20, who like the other men did not want his last name published because he is in the United States illegally.

Just head to a local tienda or store. A ticket agent will sell you a ticket in Spanish and won't ask for identification.

After Sept. 11, Greyhound ticket agents were asking for identification but no longer do, a company spokeswoman said.

Golden State buses traveled on time and stopped infrequently, added Jose, who has been in the U.S. since 1990.

And while the men said traveling on these buses was cheaper than on other lines, that is not always the case. A one-way trip from Yakima to Tijuana aboard Golden State is $130. The same trip on Greyhound: $101.50.

The criminal allegations against Golden State have brought additional anxiety to Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, about heading to and from Mexico.

A wobbly U.S. economy already had deterred some immigrants from coming to the U.S., which is no longer being regarded as a great employment magnet, immigrant advocates and immigration officials said. For the first two weeks of December, the arrest rate for illegal crossings of the 2,000-mile-long border was down 42 percent from the corresponding period last year, according to the INS.

Vows by U.S. lawmakers to crack down on terrorism, particularly other possible terrorists living and working in the U.S. with expired visas, made undocumented workers more hesitant about crossing the border.

"People are afraid to leave," said Hilary Stern, executive director of Casa Latina, a Seattle agency that helps undocumented workers find jobs.

These local workers, who in the winter will travel to either look for jobs or be close to family, are wary about leaving, Stern added. But increased security at the border has also deterred legal immigrants from traveling.

It's become a hassle to cross the border, said Jose Vega of Gig Harbor, a local restaurateur and president of the state's Club de Jalisiences.

"I've talked to people who have had a really hard time. I've heard stories about a six-hour wait," said Vega, who says he is staying home this holiday.

Tyson Foods Indicted for Smuggling Illegals

The Charlotte Observer – by Stan Choe – December 23, 2001

Some Wilkesboro residents say they can't believe Wilkes County's largest employer, Tyson Foods Inc., has been indicted on charges of smuggling illegal immigrant workers into its plants and giving them bogus work papers.

Tyson, the nation's largest meat producer, has been a good neighbor, employing 3,000 in the county and sponsoring blood drives, said Wilkesboro Mayor Norman Call.

"I wouldn't think they would do anything like that," he said.

But a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court of Tennessee's Eastern District has indicted the Arkansas-based company and six of its current and former managers on 36 counts, ranging from causing the use of illegal documents to conspiracy to defraud and obstruct the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The indictment was unsealed Wednesday. Tyson denies corporate wrongdoing; the individuals could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Tyson has four N.C. divisions - three in Wilkesboro and one in Monroe. None of the six indicted employees is from an N.C. factory.

The 57-page indictment charges that two Wilkesboro plants - the fresh poultry and cooked poultry operations - used two temporary staffing agencies to hire illegal workers from July 1998 to February 2001. The Monroe plant used another two agencies for illegal workers, from August 1998 to January 2001, the document says.

In the fall of 1998, according to the indictment, an unidentified co-conspirator told the personnel manager of the Monroe Tyson plant, "You gotta do what you gotta do. If you need to hire more temps, then hire more temps."

The government contends "temps" was often code for illegal aliens among Tyson management. Management at the N.C. plants referred questions to Tyson's headquarters.

Tyson officials could not be reached for comment Thursday, but in a statement, the company said it was innocent of conspiracy and of alleged poor working conditions for illegal immigrants, such as fewer breaks. The company also said the indictment came because it refused to agree to "the prosecutors' outrageous financial demands." Tyson did not elaborate on what those demands were.

The company said that, after an internal investigation, it dismissed four of the six managers accused in the indictment and placed the other two on administrative leave several months ago.

Those managers acted alone, without the company's consent, and broke company policy at five of the company's 57 plants, the company said.

The indictment, though, accuses Tyson of creating a corporate culture of hiring illegal aliens to boost production and cut costs.

The case is the largest against an American company for alleged smuggling, said INS commissioner James Ziglar.

"INS means business and companies, regardless of size, are on notice that INS is committed to enforcing compliance with immigration laws and protecting America's work force," he said.

After a two-and-a-half year investigation, the government accused Tyson of paying undercover agents for delivery of illegal aliens to Tyson plants across the country and providing them with fake Social Security and other identification cards.

The 15 processing plants from Texas to Virginia, including the N.C. sites, welcomed the illegal aliens, according to the indictment.

The government said Tyson preferred the illegal workers because they were paid less, would work with fewer breaks and would be less likely to file for workers' compensation, for fear of deportation.

The INS sent several undercover agents to act as smugglers, helping the aliens "through the river" across the Rio Grande. Tyson paid the agents with corporate checks, according to the indictment.

Many of Tyson's offers were for $100 per smuggled head or more for those who would be guaranteed to be "responsible," according to the indictment. Undercover agents also told Tyson management that bogus Social Security cards would cost $200 each.

The indictment charged that the indicted managers agreed to the payment but wanted to make sure to call them "recruiting" fees. The Justice Department doesn't know how many total illegal aliens Tyson hired, said spokesman Bryan Sierra, beyond those involved in the investigation. Among the allegations, Tyson asked undercover agents to bring in more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico to Guatemala.

Most of the smuggling went through a former Tyson employee who called himself "Jefe de Jefes," the boss of the bosses, the government alleges.

The former employee, who was not indicted, worked at a shop in Shelbyville, Tenn., outside a Tyson plant and helped the aliens obtain fake Social Security and other identification cards, according to the indictment.

North Carolina and Virginia Have Wised Up

How to Aggressively Recruit Workers

Associated Press – December 20, 2001

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Six executives and managers of Tyson Foods Inc. were accused Wednesday of smuggling illegal Mexican immigrants into the country to work at the processing plants of the world's largest poultry company.

The federal indictment said one of the managers told an undercover agent the company would pay $200 for each illegal alien delivered.

The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, also said the managers helped the immigrants obtain false documents to work in the United States, hoping the cheap labor would help Tyson cut costs and meet production goals.

The conspiracy allegedly reached 15 plants in nine states. Three of those charged were affiliated with Tyson's plant in Shelbyville.

Tyson spokesman Ken Kimbro said the charges were limited to a few managers who acted on their own. He said four have been fired and two others were placed on leave pending the outcome of the case.

``This indictment came because Tyson refused to agree to the prosecutor's outrageous financial demands,'' Kimbro said. The Arkansas-based company refused to elaborate on the alleged demands.

Tyson is one of the world's largest poultry, beef and pork processors, with 120,000 employees and sales last year of $23.8 billion.

The indictment came after a 2 1/2-year undercover investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

``This case represents the first time the INS has taken action against a company of Tyson's magnitude,'' said James Ziglar, INS commissioner.

According to prosecutors, undercover agents working for Tyson were directed by company managers to pick up immigrants at the Mexican border and take them to processing plants. They were allegedly reimbursed for ``recruitment'' expenses.

Prosecutors would not say how many immigrants were involved.

Robert Hash, vice president of Tyson's retail fresh division, and Gerald Lankford, a former human resources manager of the division, were charged, along with three former managers at the Shelbyville plant and a manager in Noel, Mo., who used to work in Shelbyville.

In the past, Tyson officials have downplayed the company's role in the booming Hispanic populations near its plants. Bedford County, where the Shelbyville plant is situated, is home to Tennessee's highest concentration of Hispanics, according to 2000 census figures.

Importing illegal aliens for commercial advantage can carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Prosecutors are also seeking forfeiture of the financial gain realized by Tyson Foods and its managers.

Hiring Illegal Aliens

The National Law Journal - Elizabeth Amon – November 28, 2001

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a case between two cleaning companies over the alleged illegal hiring of undocumented workers. The decision could open the door for suits between private companies under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO).

The class action was filed in Hartford, Conn., by Commercial Cleaning Services against competitor Colin Service Systems Inc. It alleges that Colin engaged in a pattern of the illegal hiring of undocumented workers to reduce its costs, enabling the company to underbid competing firms. Commercial Cleaning Services v. Colin Service Systems, No. 00-7571.

"This makes it a lot easier for any suits alleging unfair competition under RICO to go forward," said plaintiff's lawyer Howard Foster of Johnson & Bell in Chicago. Foster said the ruling will permit him to bring similar suits against other industries including meat packing and agriculture.

The decision reversed a district court ruling which found that Commercial had no standing to sue because it did not demonstrate proximate harm, a requirement established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Holmes v. Securities Investor Protection Corp. (1992).

The appellate court did find that the complaint was deficient in one aspect and needed to be resubmitted. Judge Pierre Leval, who wrote the opinion, said Commercial failed to allege that Colin had actual knowledge the illegal aliens it hired were brought into the country in violation of the statute. Colin's lawyers viewed that finding as a victory.

"We're pleased that the court agreed that the complaint was legally insufficient and should have been dismissed," said Aaron Marcu, a partner at the New York office of Washington, D.C.'s Covington & Burling. "There is no basis to this case, and we are confident we will prevail when we return to the district court."

But whether or not Commercial proves its case, the ruling could represent a shift from the federal courts' largely hostile attitude toward competitive-injury allegations under RICO. That makes the decision significant, according to G. Robert Blakey, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, who wrote the RICO laws in 1970.

The court, in its decision, has "now told people who are competitively injured by the abuse of the immigration system that they have a remedy under RICO. Before, they didn't have a remedy at all, which is why Congress put it in there." Congress expanded the RICO law to include immigration-related crimes in 1996. The 2nd Circuit decision could end up supplementing the government's efforts to catch employers who hire undocumented workers by permitting civil litigators to press their claims.

"We will be acting as private prosecutors in the way RICO was intended and I think that is a desirable thing," Foster said.

Visa Program Under Fire

Los Angeles Times – by Jube Shiver Jr. – November 24, 2001

Amid a massive wave of tech layoffs, U.S. companies obtained government approval to bring in a record 163,200 foreign workers under a program that critics say is being abused to hire cheaper overseas talent.

Although the number of approved visas under the program fell short of the 195,000 allowed annually, the hiring binge in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 has still caused a furor in an industry that has experienced more than 600,000 layoffs over the past 10 months.

"At a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of work, many employers are rubbing salt in the wound by hiring foreign workers," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington group critical of the H-1B visa program.

The program was created by the Immigration Act of 1990. It allowed companies to hire foreign workers with hard-to-find technical skills. Those include not just engineers, but fashion models, physicians, food chefs and others with specialized talents.

Still, roughly 60 percent of the H-1B visa holders are in computer programming and other information technology fields, according to a report released last year by the General Accounting Office.

Workers get a visa to remain in the United States for up to six years and are supposed to earn the same salary and benefits as their American-born counterparts.

The record applications for foreign workers, the majority of whom take jobs in the high-tech industry, come more than a year after Silicon Valley mounted a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to convince Congress to expand the program to satisfy skyrocketing demand for highly skilled workers.

Executives from companies such as Sun Microsystems, Intel Corp. and Motorola successfully argued that if the New Economy were to continue to boom, it was crucial for the government to admit more engineers and other skilled workers from overseas.

But by the time Congress raised the H-1B visa limits from 115,000 to 195,000 last October, the tech boom was already waning.

Industry officials say they are eager to hire Americans. But they contend that even with this year's layoffs, the number of U.S. workers with technical skills isn't large enough to fill all the job vacancies.

"The dot-com boom may be over, but we are still in the middle of a skills shortage," said Theresa Cardinal Brown, manager of labor and immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. "Every organization in the country has a need for information technology workers," including those in areas "that are still growing, like manufacturing, finance and health care."

The surge in worker visas over the last 12 months is in part due to pent-up demand for engineers of all types as U.S. colleges and universities have graduated fewer of them. In addition, companies rushed to hire more foreigners last year before a $500 visa application fee increase was imposed by the INS in December.

Murali Krishna Devarakonda, a software engineer and board member of the Immigrants Support Network, a Budd Lake, N.J.-based group that assists H-1B visa holders, added that the service's statistics are also misleading. He said the INS data only indicate the number of approved visa applications, not the number of foreign workers who actually come to the United States. He also speculated that "most of the petitions were filled before this economic slump started."

But demand has remained robust through the economic downturn. Besides the surge of applications this summer, the INS still has 29,000 applications pending that it has shifted into the current fiscal year.

Daniel M. Larson, director of government relations for Texas Instruments, where 800 H-1B workers make up about 3 percent of the workforce, said the market for electrical engineers is still extremely competitive.

"We are dependent on H-1B workers and consider them a valuable part of our company," said Larson, whose company has laid off 2,500 workers in the last year. He did not have figures on whether any H-1B workers were a part of the layoffs.

For some technology workers laid low by the current economic slump, the explanations provide little consolation. "The level of anger over this program in the technology industry just keeps rising," said John Miano, chairman of the Programmer's Guild, a trade group that represents software engineers.

Gene Nelson, a divorced father of two girls, alleged that most all the H-1B visa holders hired at Boston-based Genuity kept their positions while he and 500 workers lost their jobs at the Internet infrastructure services provider this summer.

"Big companies basically want a workforce of independent contractors ... they can pay low wages to," said Nelson, who made $49,000 a year. If it wasn't for the H-1B program, Nelson said he would still "have a job and be making more money."

Genuity did not return calls seeking comment.

The rancor has spilled over to Congress where at least one lawmaker has introduced legislation that would scale back the controversial program.

"I never believed for a moment these companies really were unable to find a citizen who wanted the job," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who has introduced a bill that would slash the number of H-1B visa holders to pre-1998 levels of 65,000 annually. "Now, having seen these numbers, I am positive of it."

Amid the tight job market, there are concerns about abuses of the H-1B visa holders themselves. A few immigrants have even begun campaigning for reform, citing instances of employers paying low wages and threatening to seek the deportation of foreign workers who complain.

The GAO, which found that foreigners were offered a median starting salary of $45,000 annually last year, said there is little policing of the H-1B program.

"INS staff conducting these reviews continue to lack easy access to specific, case-related information that would help them assess the merit of employers' requests. ... As a result, there is not sufficient assurance that INS reviews are adequate for detecting program noncompliance or abuse," the GAO said.

Devarakonda, of the Immigrants Support Network, agreed with the GAO's assessment. "The current system is certainly flawed," he said.

Immigration - Page Two