Risks of hiring illegals is criminal case now

NY Times:

Immigration agents had prepared a nasty surprise for the Garcia Labor Company, a temporary worker contractor, when they moved against it on charges of hiring illegal immigrants. They brought a 40-count federal indictment, part of a new nationwide strategy by immigration officials to clamp down on employers of illegal immigrant laborers.

Maximino Garcia, the president of the company, which provides low-wage laborers to businesses from Pennsylvania to Texas, stood before a federal judge here on Tuesday to answer conspiracy charges of aiding illegal immigrants and money laundering. If convicted, Mr. Garcia, who pleaded not guilty, could serve 20 years in jail and forfeit his headquarters building and $12 million.

The criminal charges against Mr. Garcia and his company were brought by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security. The campaign has included at least five other federal indictments of business executives in Ohio and Kentucky and has sent payroll managers rushing to re-examine their workers’ papers and rethink plans for their work force.

It also created a new environment of fear in Ohio’s immigrant communities.

“It’s a very uneasy feeling,” said Sister Teresa Ann Wolf, a Roman Catholic nun who works with immigrant workers in Canton, Ohio. “People are afraid to leave the house to go to the store. They are afraid to come to church.”

Until recently, the worst that Mr. Garcia, 43, might have expected from the immigration authorities was a civil fine and the deportation of some illegal workers. In April, with President Bush under fire from both Democrats and Republicans who accused him of being lax on employers of illegal immigrants, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the new campaign. It focuses on those suspected of violations with felony charges that could lead to huge financial penalties and the seizing of assets.

The White House is hoping the increased enforcement will strengthen Mr. Bush’s hand in the battle over immigration reform, Homeland Security Department officials said, by pre-empting House Republicans who are pressing a bill they passed in December that centers on enforcement and border security but does not provide a way for illegal immigrants to become legal. The president supports a bipartisan Senate measure that enhances enforcement but also opens a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant and creates a guest worker program.

...


It looks like the House Republicans are already having an effect even though the President and the Senate have not approved their tougher stand on illegal immigration. The rule of law is finally being applied and the "fear" described in some areas is ust the begining of the dynamic effect of enforcing the law. I think with more vigorous enforcement, people will begin self deportation when they find they cannot get or keep jobs, and can't get social services.

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