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Hire illegals, lose your property.
April 29, 2010 2:27 PM   Subscribe

If you hire illegal aliens at your business, the federal government can seize your property. In a rare move, the U.S. government is seeking to confiscate the property of an iconic San Diego restaurant that allegedly had a practice of knowingly hiring illegal aliens.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese (115 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
1 down, ALL OF THE REST TO GO.
posted by shmegegge at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Illegal activities have legal consequences. Film at 11.
posted by mikoroshi at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, good.

I'd expect the same of businesses that exploit child labour or slavery.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:36 PM on April 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Cue teabaggers hollering about the tyranny of the Obama administration using fascist tactics against small business owners...

Any time now...
posted by 2N2222 at 2:36 PM on April 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


It would probably be easier to just list the restaurants that don't have at least one illegal immigrant employee.
posted by gyc at 2:36 PM on April 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


Good.
posted by The Whelk at 2:37 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


A $1.3 million fine for hiring practices, for a simple restaurant, strikes me as more than a tad excessive.
posted by Malor at 2:37 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would probably be easier to just list the restaurants that don't have at least one illegal immigrant employee.

Exactly. You can't have en economy based on illegal, undocumented black-market labor and then vilify the desperate people who work in this semi-slavery.
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on April 29, 2010 [38 favorites]


They're making an example of them, duh! Cuz it's a French restaurant!
posted by Mister_A at 2:39 PM on April 29, 2010


Anyway, this is good news for the McDonaldses and Burger Kings of the world. Poor kids deserve a break today...
posted by Mister_A at 2:40 PM on April 29, 2010


So, who at Goldman Sachs is willing to renounce their citizenship for the good of the glorious workers' paradise?
posted by enn at 2:41 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does this mean the US will now be seizing 99% of all farmland?

Cause, I'd like me some fair-trade strawberries.
posted by yeloson at 2:42 PM on April 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


Are the people who work in semi-slavery being penalized or the people who are exploiting them? Simply because someone is in the U.S. without permission is not a valid reason to pay them less than minimum wage or adhere to all labor laws. If a business makes a practice of doing these things then they should expect to be punished severely.
posted by Tashtego at 2:42 PM on April 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


So, who at Goldman Sachs is willing to renounce their citizenship for the good of the glorious workers' paradise?

Fabrice Tourre?
posted by blucevalo at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2010


This is like PETA picking on some young starlet instead of the Hells Angels. I'll believe they mean business the day they go after the agricultural industry in an ag state. (California, for instance).
posted by small_ruminant at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


"French Laundry" was originally a euphemism for laundries in California that weren't run by Chinese people. I always wonder why it's considered cool for a restaurant (not the one in the article, but) to have a name that's essentially "No Chinks Laundry".

But to the linked article, film at 11 indeed.
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on April 29, 2010


Malor: A $1.3 million fine for hiring practices, for a simple restaurant, strikes me as more than a tad excessive.

If that's what the property is worth (according to assessments), and they own it (according to my read of the article), I'm going to guess that they've made more than enough in the last 30 years. I bet, if you wracked up the higher-end of the fines that go along with the charges, $1.3 million is low once you add in the fines for hiring illegal works in the first place plus the tax evasion that usually goes along with that plus the fines for paying people less than minimum wage that often goes along with that. But IANAAR.

"All the other restaurants do it" isn't good enough. Especially when you get caught.



* I am not an asshole restaurateur
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:46 PM on April 29, 2010


Well, good.

I'd expect the same of businesses that exploit child labour or slavery.


So, enslaving someone is morally on par with hiring someone who doesn't have US citizenship?
posted by ripley_ at 2:47 PM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


So when are they going to start shutting down and socializing ( they'd have to, the cannibalized the local infrastructure) walmarts?
posted by Betty_effn_White at 2:47 PM on April 29, 2010


This isn't a diner. This was a very upscale restaurant that according to the government had a practice of knowingly hiring illegal aliens. They certified to the accuracy of SSN numbers they knew were bogus. That's fraud, and possibly perjury. The only reason to do this would be to reduce labor costs and avoid taxes.

So the feds want to seize their property? Good. Seize away. If this happened frequently enough it would break cycle of exploitation that has created a black market in cheap labor in this country, and then maybe we could have an honest discussion about the necessity to legitimize the residency of migrants and allow them to pull their lives out of the criminal underworld where they live. If they are doing valuable work, they should be paid in kind. Anything else, in my opinion, is slavery. That the slave is willing to accept his enslavement because he has no other options does not in any way justify or rationalize it.

Consider that an illegal alien who works for cash in America can't open a bank account. You need an SSN or some other valid papers for that. So either you open an account in Mexico and rely on someone with a passport to ferry your money back and forth over the border and make your deposits, or you pay a fee to some legal resident to deposit your money into an account in their name that they open for you (and hope they don't rip you off). There are other arrangements as well, but they all involve a legit resident illegally collecting a fee from the honest-but-for-a-northbound journey worker.

So just to keep the money you are working hard to earn, you need to break more laws. And this is just the beginning. How do you buy a car? You pay cash to a seller that won't ask for proof of insurance (or won't seriously check an obviously bogus one), and he gives you a car that is in far worse condition than a legal resident would get for the same money. Again, it costs extra in every transaction to keep that transaction underground. How do you rent a place to live in some place other than the worst part of town where they'll accept cash and ask no questions? And every person who promises no to ask you any questions is going to charge you more.

We force people who are otherwise honest and hardworking to spend their lives dealing with legal residents who are criminals.

It's a shitty life we set up for people who want nothing more than to come here and work much harder than many of the slacker loafing shitbags who were born here. It is inexcusable that the shadow unemployment rate is 20% and businesses are hiring illegals.

Also,while I'm on the subject any Arizona cop that asks me to show him my papers is going to find himself the subject of about a dozen volumes in the true crime section of the bookstore.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:48 PM on April 29, 2010 [97 favorites]


President Obama is sending a clear message to the French: We don't want your gourmet food made by illegal immigrants.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:49 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hiring illegals has a long history in our country. No one paid much attention to it for years. Now
it is up front and public. Remember the Joad Family? They got help from the socialist govt and helped prevent the free market from functioning at its best.
posted by Postroad at 2:49 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor: "A $1.3 million fine for hiring practices, for a simple restaurant, strikes me as more than a tad excessive."

From the article: "The government has gained assets of businesses in forfeiture proceedings stemming from work-site immigration violations. In San Diego in 2007, the owner and vice president of the Golden State Fence Co. pleaded guilty to criminal charges of hiring illegal workers, and they forfeited $4.7 million."

So the amount of money is not unprecedented. But it seems unfair to make this restaurant "a symbol." Shouldn't there be some sort of warning first?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:50 PM on April 29, 2010


Is it necessarily the case that illegal aliens employed under the table are held in semi slavery or child labor? C'mon, folks. Lighten up on the hyperbole.

I'm not seeing how this is really beneficial to anyone other than politicians wanting to look tough. Certainly not beneficial to the business facing it's demise. Nor to the illegally employed workers facing unemployment. Not to mention the economy overall facing the loss of yet another business, with law enforcement overhead to boot.

All over what is essentially a victimless crime: hiring willing laborers for work.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:55 PM on April 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is this a warning shot to the business community before Congress starts discussion on the Immigration bill? Maybe it's a way to get them to support the Democrats in some sort of amnesty move.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:56 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"French Laundry" was originally a euphemism for laundries in California that weren't run by Chinese people.

Really? I did not know that.

In any event, this restaurant is The French Gourmet in San Diego, not the iconic French Laundry in the Napa Valley outside San Francisco (which got its name, apparently, as it was a "French steam laundry in the late 1920s").
posted by bearwife at 2:57 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy: "Shouldn't there be some sort of warning first?"

A warning? How about, "It's against the law to hire illegal immigrants"? I think they got that warning, multiple times. They just chose to ignore it.

Yes, they're not alone. But like was said above, "everybody's doing it" is not an excuse.
posted by yiftach at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2010


All over what is essentially a victimless crime: hiring willing laborers for work.

Laborers who get no mandated benefits and no legal protections from unsafe work environments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2010 [25 favorites]


Here in NYC, I can report a chilling conversation I overheard. An Hispanic man had come into the Greek restaurant where I was having lunch, and he was looking for work. One of the managers sat down with him and explained what was expected of a dish washer. It boiled down to 60 hours a week for $200 cash. Yikes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:59 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's an agricultural business around here that has a rule that any visits by government representatives of any level must be pre-cleared. A couple of years ago the ATF came by for a fellow on some fireworks-type violation, and half the building cleared out, briefly closing down a nearby Interstate.

As Krugman notes, Democrats like myself are divided internally (that is, personally internally) about how to respond to this issue. Obviously I hate the police state aspects of immigration enfocement, but I have no problem with deporting criminal aliens, and in cases like this it's obviously providing jobs for somebody, yet at the same time working to depress wages overall.
posted by dhartung at 3:00 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, hiring people without proper papers isn't slavery. Do people read what they type here? This seems kind of crazy, considering the practice is probably incredibly wide spread.
posted by chunking express at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


If they are doing valuable work, they should be paid in kind. Anything else, in my opinion, is slavery.

Do you know that the employees are not paid in kind? I've worked under the table before, sometimes next to illegal aliens doing unskilled labor. We were all paid more than minimum wage ($10/hr) cash money-no deductions. I don't think anybody was seriously complaining. It was about an honest exchange as could be. Slavery it was not.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:02 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, enslaving someone is morally on par with hiring someone who doesn't have US citizenship?

Business are fined for behaving illegally, not for behaving immorally. It's not morally the same at all, but it's still illegal.
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've always maintained that if the US government were serious about ending illegal immigration the solution is simple: impose harsh criminal penalties for hiring illegals and enforce them viciously. Militarizing the border is just plain stupid, and guaranteed to be ineffective.

The explanation, of course, is that neither the US government nor any state government (including Arizona) is even faintly interested in ending illegal immigration because a great many large industries depend on illegal immigrants for their labor pool.

The last thing any major agricorp in California wants is legal workers, they'd have to pay them minimum wage, pay workers comp, pay social security, FICA, medicare/medicaid, etc. With illegals they can pay them next to nothing, hire thugs to brutalize them in order to make them work harder and longer than the law allows, etc. Much the same can be said about construction, hotel maid service, etc.

Thus the government (including the Arizona state government), in the person of our elected representatives who are bribed by those business interests, has no desire to actually end illegal immigration. But they want racist and/or right wing votes, so they have to periodically pretend to care, which means they do ineffective (but appealing to racists and/or right winger) things, or target a convenient scapegoat.
posted by sotonohito at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Really? I did not know that.

There is a very small historical site plaque on a building that's a historical "French Laundry" in Palo Also, a couple blocks off the main downtown street. I will admit this is the only description of the term liek this I have ever seen. And yeah, I know it's a different place.
posted by GuyZero at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2010


Not to support the broken immigration system, but illegal immigrants don't live in a bubble of self-dependency, relying solely on crooks to survive. There are families and communities that support immigrants, legal or not, and act as a conduit between legitimate businesses and government transactions and people living in the US without documentation. Some business owners are aiding and abetting illegal immigrants to increase their profits, while others are helping people.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2010


Malor wrote: A $1.3 million fine for hiring practices, for a simple restaurant, strikes me as more than a tad excessive.

I think that's the usual rate. A couple years back the feds went after a family that had immigrated from Mexico that had started a Mexican restaurant that was successful enough that they ended up opening several more locations.

They arrested the owners, confiscated all their property, and sent their asses back to Mexico.
posted by wierdo at 3:07 PM on April 29, 2010


Laborers who get no mandated benefits and no legal protections from unsafe work environments.

I'm not an expert on this, so if anyone is please correct me, but:

Is the solution to illegal immigrant labor not having legal protections really to fine restaurants? I've always thought of the illegal immigrant in the kitchen thing as being part of a larger systemic issue, and that discouraging employment of illegal immigrants won't actually stem the tide of them entering the country. I also don't think that this actually provides any real protection to the laborers.

not that I have a solution, mind you.
posted by shmegegge at 3:07 PM on April 29, 2010


Is it necessarily the case that illegal aliens employed under the table are held in semi slavery or child labor?

I can't speak about the day laborers or the crop pickers, but I do know the restaurant business. Every restaurant I worked in hired illegals as bus boys and dishwashers, sometimes a clever bus boy was trained up as a line chef. They weren't slaves. They worked just as hard and no harder than the waitresses, the hostesses, and the chefs. Usually they were paid in cash, sometimes by check (if they had access to a social security card) and made slightly less than the waitresses.


A warning? How about, "It's against the law to hire illegal immigrants"? I think they got that warning, multiple times. They just chose to ignore it.

They ignored it because they knew that the usual penalty wasn't as expensive as hiring dishwashers for $10.00 an hour plus benefits. It's like a guy who speeds every day on the highway and keeps paying the fines and then one day, out of the blue, the police confiscate his car.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2010


Laborers who get no mandated benefits and no legal protections from unsafe work environments.

Been there, done that. Would I have liked better? Sure. But it was what I needed at the time, and was grateful for the opportunity.

BTW, I've worked much more dangerous jobs above board for marginally more money than I made under the table.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the restaurant is paying them a fair wage (i.e. what they would be required to pay any other worker), then I don't see a problem with that.

Of course it is highly unlikely that they were being paid a fair wage, unless they're doing it as some sort of charity for illegal immigrants.

The fact is, I don't give a crap where your gloopy screaming little butt hit the ground after popping out of your mom. It's so incredibly trivial and juvenile to classify people and apportion their rights based on where they are born. Unfortunately, it's nicely hard-wired into our monkey brains to constantly identify the "other" in every circumstance and defend oneself against that "other".

Even if you are still enamored of the whole "invisible lines on the globe defining people it wouldn't kill anti-immigration folks to notice that AMERICANS are directly responsible for turning Mexico into such a shithole that people would risk their lives to come and work for next to nothing in ARIZONA.

We buy the cartels' cocaine, and they use that money to buy their weapons. I don't see any other way to frame it: Americans are essentially waging a proxy war on Mexican civilians.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


another thing I'm wondering:

does this mean the government is going to go after monsanto, now? how about all the super wealthy families that have live in nannies that are illegal and have them live on premises so they can be pressured into working over time on the children without pay? that I can get behind. let's fine the shit out of those guys.
posted by shmegegge at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


1. Is it necessarily the case that illegal aliens employed under the table are held in semi slavery or child labor? C'mon, folks. Lighten up on the hyperbole.

2. So, enslaving someone is morally on par with hiring someone who doesn't have US citizenship?


No, of course not. But exploitation is exploitation. If the undocumented workers were getting reasonable pay, reasonable hours, safe working conditions, and could speak out whenever they weren't getting those without the threat of deportation, I wouldn't have a problem with it.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


sotonohito: "The last thing any major agricorp in California wants is legal workers, they'd have to pay them minimum wage, pay workers comp, pay social security, FICA, medicare/medicaid, etc. With illegals they can pay them next to nothing, hire thugs to brutalize them in order to make them work harder and longer than the law allows, etc. Much the same can be said about construction, hotel maid service, etc."

I can say as an ex (legal) agricultural worker that that isn't totally correct. Agricultural businesses are typically exempt from state minimum wage laws (not sure about federal), and their employees are not eligible for unemployment compensation. There may be other differences as well.
posted by idiopath at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


God bless these patriotic businesses which hire people below minimum wage and shrewdly evade all legal employment benefits, standards, and protections, for the noble purpose of turning a higher profit.

How dare we persecute them. It's not like they are exploiting the labor of American citizens -- who actually deserve minimal labor protections.
posted by dgaicun at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I agree that pursuing employers instead of immigrants will be the only viable way of handling illegal immigration. That said, I'd love it if they'd grant "all the other restaurants do it" some legal status.

For example, if the restaurant claimed their treatment was exceptional, the judge might attach some caveat to their conviction, like say "your property must be returned if the INS does not bring 1000 similar cases during the next 5 years."

In this way, judges might grant the defendant protection against selective prosecutions, while actually helping the prosecution send a stronger message, i.e. every other restaurant now says "fuck! they're going after 1000 more restaurants!"
posted by jeffburdges at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


You know, considering the normally compassionate readership of MetaFilter, I'm surprised to read all the "good! give those evil restaurateurs HELL" and "damn straight it's unethical to hire people without documented citizenship" sentiment here today. It's not usually on the Blue I hear chants of USA! USA! USA!.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]



I've always maintained that if the US government were serious about ending illegal immigration the solution is simple: impose harsh criminal penalties for hiring illegals and enforce them viciously. Militarizing the border is just plain stupid, and guaranteed to be ineffective.

The explanation, of course, is that neither the US government nor any state government (including Arizona) is even faintly interested in ending illegal immigration because a great many large industries depend on illegal immigrants for their labor pool.


There's something really dishonest and distasteful about the pattern of increasing repression, eventual amnesty, and then the next wave of illegal immigration, then repression, and eventual amnesty. It's clear that the US, even in a recession, has a huge demand for immigrant labor -- I'd rather there was a straightforward path for legal immigration sufficient to meet demand, which would then allow us to hammer the businesses who prefer to hire illegally.
posted by Forktine at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


So, enslaving someone is morally on par with hiring someone who doesn't have US citizenship?

It depends on the case, but it's easy to see the appeal of a voiceless workforce, one that (for fear of deportation, language barriers, and so on) cannot ever complain to the authorities about pay, conditions, or code violations. In such cases it's not that they "do the work we don't want to;" it's that they do this work in a sphere of legal invisibility, for hours and wages we'd rather not imagine. Take away ius soli, make it a heritable status, and this could well be slavery.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:13 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I refuse to use the word "illegal" as a noun, especially when it's in reference to a human being. I find that kind of speech utterly reprehensible.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:14 PM on April 29, 2010 [20 favorites]


One thing to note is that illegal immigrants aren't going to get any of the benefits that get taken out of your check, from unemployment to social security.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:15 PM on April 29, 2010


Specific info on agricultural employers and the federal minimum wage (pdf). It turns out that it depends on the size of the farm - smaller farms (like the one I worked on) are exempt from federal minimum wage laws.
posted by idiopath at 3:15 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think part of the problem from the outset of the current system is the requirement that employers act as gatekeepers on illegal immigration. Are there classes taught to all business owners which give them guidelines as to what is a legitimate document for proof of employment eligibility in the US? How often are these classes refreshed with each and every business owner? Are there deep sessions involving detection of fake IDs and paperwork?

At some point, the responsibility for the fraud (which is what it is if you are presenting yourself for employment in the US as eligible to work and are not) has to fall upon those presenting the faked paperwork, and not by the business owners who are simply seeking to fill employment slots in their businesses. Due diligence has its limits...
The indictment says the company’s managers, including Malécot and Kauffmann, would certify on required Employment Verification Forms, known as I-9 forms, that documents employees gave them appeared to be genuine and they appeared to the best of their knowledge to be eligible to work in the U.S.

Workers were then put on the payroll. But later, the Social Security Administration would send “no match” letters to the restaurant, saying that the Social Security numbers provided did not match the names of the actual holders of those numbers.

At that point, the indictment said, the workers would be taken off the payroll and paid in cash under the table, until they acquired employment documents that included new Social Security numbers. Those would also be sent in, with the restaurant attesting they appeared genuine.
If they really wanted to make this process stick, it would play out very differently. Once the SSA had determined that someone's paperwork was bogus, they would not send out a letter to the restaurant. They would alert INS who would then immediately arrest and set deportation in progress. Period. No letter to the business owner to was taken in by documents which they feel look real. They'd arrest the people who presented the offending paperwork and move forward with charges of fraud and illegal entry. Period.

Yes yes yes, this one business owner had shown a pattern of offenses, or whatever. But at some point, actual law enforcing agencies have to step in and enforce the laws. It shouldn't be up to every single business owner, small and large, to police the illegal immigrant population. Put enforcement into the agencies which have that power, allow the SSA to talk to the INS, and start a real program of identity paperwork verification which has teeth against those who commit the fraud.

Somehow, I don't think this will happen. Too much of our economy is kept in check by our black market labor, and god only knows... We certainly can't find US citizens to pick up trash from the sides of metropolitan highways or wash dishes in restaurants for the wages which our current economy demands we pay for such "menial" tasks.
posted by hippybear at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


If we are really serious about ending undocumented workers, this is the only way to do it. As long as there is even a little bit to be made, those with nothing, and nothing to lose, are going to risk coming into the States. A restaurant is the easy target though. Let them hit some huge agribusiness farms; let them put a few upper crust matrons behind bars, then we will hear the squealing.

But I don't think we are serious about ending this immigration. I'm willing to bet that some, if not most, of the legislators who voted for the Arizona law, have 'illegal' gardeners or maids. And the teapartiers that don't wish they did. It's really about intimidating the dark skinned family, who might have been in the country and state before it was a country or state, and moved into their subdivision.

This is a good way to test that hypothesis.
posted by Some1 at 3:18 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, of course not. But exploitation is exploitation. If the undocumented workers were getting reasonable pay, reasonable hours, safe working conditions, and could speak out whenever they weren't getting those without the threat of deportation, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

So who gets to dictate what's "reasonable"? You, or the people who have freely accepted jobs on terms that you disagree with?

You're not helping anyone by limiting their options. Not to mention that "the minimum wage is only slightly more effective as an anti-poverty measure as would be distributing money at random across households".
posted by ripley_ at 3:18 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


In an ideal world, the judges would even say "well, there are these studies saying agriculture and construction employ x% and y% of the illegals respectively, which make up the lions share, so we'll vacate this conviction if you don't also bring a bunch of prosecutions in those industries."
posted by jeffburdges at 3:18 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always maintained that if the US government were serious about ending illegal immigration the solution is simple: impose harsh criminal penalties for hiring illegals and enforce them viciously. Militarizing the border is just plain stupid, and guaranteed to be ineffective.

Militarizing the job market seems pretty stupid, and quite burdensome on top of it all.

Is the solution to illegal immigrant labor not having legal protections really to fine restaurants?

Probably not. The best solution is to liberalize immigration so as to discourage illegal immigration and employment. Nobody wants to be an illegal alien. The problem is that unless one has some very specialized skill or a sponsor already in the US, there is almost no chance of simply and legally moving to the US to better one's life. Given the existing market for low skilled labor, there is every incentive to simply ignore the law and go about one's business as best one could.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:19 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know, considering the normally compassionate readership of MetaFilter, I'm surprised to read all the "good! give those evil restaurateurs HELL" and "damn straight it's unethical to hire people without documented citizenship" sentiment here today. It's not usually on the Blue I hear chants of USA! USA! USA!.

Wow, way to misread the entire thread, dude.

The people saying "good" (myself included) are saying it out of compassion for the workers. This position is not the least bit mutually exclusive from calls for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Indeed, the two go hand in hand.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:21 PM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


So who gets to dictate what's "reasonable"? You, or the people who have freely accepted jobs on terms that you disagree with?

Maybe the law?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2010


hippybear : An employer who'll help illegals fake paperwork will be more likely to abuse the illegal immigrants. Yes, employer due diligence has limits, but the prosecution claims they can show the employer intentionally faked paperwork.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2010


No, of course not. But exploitation is exploitation. If the undocumented workers were getting reasonable pay, reasonable hours, safe working conditions, and could speak out whenever they weren't getting those without the threat of deportation, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

You realize the solution to your scenario is to liberalize immigration, not persecute utilizers of illegal immigrant labor.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You realize the solution to your scenario is to liberalize immigration, not persecute utilizers of illegal immigrant labor.

These are complementary, not mutually exclusive.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


You realize the solution to your scenario is to liberalize immigration, not AND persecute utilizers of illegal immigrant labor.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


StickyCarpet wrote: It boiled down to 60 hours a week for $200 cash. Yikes.

You know, if you're going to pay somebody under the table, you're saving a boatload of money anyway, so why not just go ahead and pay minimum wage rather than being completely exploitative?

I don't get all the rah-rah here. I've known quite a few people in construction who were paid under the table. The illegal immigrants got paid the same as everybody else. $10-$15 an hour, usually. I'm sure there are some folks being completely exploitative, and it really bugs me that an illegal immigrant has no recourse, but the anger here seems a bit much.
posted by wierdo at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd expect the same of businesses that exploit child labour or slavery

Slave labour was institutionalised, and escaping from it was a crime. "Illegal" labour is criminalised, and escaping to it is a crime. If you want to support the rights of illegal immigrants and brutalised workers, focus on the right to move freely and organise in the workplace. Crackdowns on illegal labour make things much, much worse for migrant workers. The more frightened they are to reveal themselves, the easier it is to underpay them, force them to engage in dangerous work, bully and harass them, etc.
posted by stammer at 3:26 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the solution is to get more Americans used to taking low-paying, unappealing food service industry jobs. The unemployment rate in San Diego County is 10.6%.
posted by GuyZero at 3:27 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The people saying "good" (myself included) are saying it out of compassion for the workers.

How compassionate is it when a worker loses his job over this sort of action?


You realize the solution to your scenario is to liberalize immigration, not persecute utilizers of illegal immigrant labor.

These are complementary, not mutually exclusive.


Not when only the latter action is being taken.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:31 PM on April 29, 2010


Is the solution to illegal immigrant labor not having legal protections really to fine restaurants? I've always thought of the illegal immigrant in the kitchen thing as being part of a larger systemic issue, and that discouraging employment of illegal immigrants won't actually stem the tide of them entering the country. I also don't think that this actually provides any real protection to the laborers.

not that I have a solution, mind you.


I'm not sure there's any one specific solution, but I think it's fair to say that illegal immigrants:

-- work for much less than documented workers
-- receive no health or retirement benefits, public or private
-- have no recourse to the law when dealing with abusive or physically dangerous work environments; an undocumented worker who gets hurt has no legal avenues for recovering damages

The morality of looking the other way while this goes on seems self-evident, in terms of how this affects the human beings who are exploited for cheap labor. Looking the other way is also laughing at labor laws that previous generations of Americans died to put into place. One honest thing to do would be to scrap immigration laws altogether. Another honest thing to do would be enforce the laws already in place.

Fuzzy issues of morality aside, Americans should be concerned because lax enforcement puts downward pressure on nearly everyone's wages and benefits. Lax enforcement also promote the USA's inexorable race to becoming a third-world country, with the associated wealth disparity and corruption we see in South American autocracies.

We could recognize the utility of paying people fair wages and offering fair benefits, and protect all of this by enforcing laws that are already on the books. This might involve dealing with egregious abuses with more severe punishment, such as what we're seeing here.

A more extreme solution would be to rethink the notion of citizenship, perhaps along the economic lines hinted at in Neil Stephenson's Diamond Age, but I wonder if global capitalism is probably already pushing us in that direction, anyway. Governments and the rule of democratic law are becoming less relevant and less powerful as corporatism takes over.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:33 PM on April 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yes, employer due diligence has limits, but the prosecution claims they can show the employer intentionally faked paperwork.

Right... but if I go into someplace and, say, purchase something using a faked credit card, it's not the business which is pursued for my use of falsified documentation, it's me. Because I had the fake documentation.

Why are business owners on the hook for the fraudulent actions of others?

I'm not really happy with how all this illegal immigrant stuff is going down in the US, generally. I don't have good solutions for the problem. But I'm certain that business owners should not be responsible for fraud committed by potential employees when those applying for jobs present "intentionally faked paperwork". Not without deep training in how to recognize such things.

Or perhaps all hiring should be delayed until the SSA or whatever other verifying agencies have returned a yay or nay as to eligibility. Either a week's delay in actually activating a hire until paperwork is verified, or else some more immediate feedback mechanism available to employers to allow them to check on presented paperwork. Like, a website where you type in a SS number and get immediately a photo of the person to which that number was assigned, etc.

I'm not huge on that idea, actually. But shifting the responsibility from those committing fraud to those who (either knowingly or not) were taken in by that fraud seems backwards to me.
posted by hippybear at 3:34 PM on April 29, 2010


You need to liberalize immigration BEFORE you start cracking down on illegal hiring. I mean, these people at this restaurant weren't there to beef up their resumes. They needed money to live (illegally) in the US. My guess is they probably didn't give a fuck that they were being exploited.
posted by chunking express at 3:35 PM on April 29, 2010


Seems like a good end of the issue to start at.
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It depends on the case, but it's easy to see the appeal of a voiceless workforce, one that (for fear of deportation, language barriers, and so on) cannot ever complain to the authorities about pay, conditions, or code violations. In such cases it's not that they "do the work we don't want to;" it's that they do this work in a sphere of legal invisibility, for hours and wages we'd rather not imagine. Take away ius soli, make it a heritable status, and this could well be slavery.

"could well be slavery" is not the same as slavery. This is punishing people for the possibility of abusing their power, not punishing them for abusing that power. That strikes me as fundamentally wrong.
posted by ripley_ at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2010


like was said above, "everybody's doing it" is not an excuse.

Actually, it kind of is. If the government were to really crack down on the tens of millions of undocumented workers in the U.S., it would have serious negative consequences for our economy as a whole. Even Bush recognized this. This is one topic for which there is no easy solution, but whatever the answer I'm pretty sure cracking down on one restaurant in an isolated case like this is not it.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:50 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


hippybear: If they really wanted to make this process stick, it would play out very differently. Once the SSA had determined that someone's paperwork was bogus, they would not send out a letter to the restaurant. They would alert INS who would then immediately arrest and set deportation in progress. Period.

So some data entry clerk at the SSA processes your paperwork incorrectly and INS comes along and kicks you out of the country? That does not seem optimal.

Is there a good reason why employers should be privy to their employees' immigration status in the first place?
posted by twirlip at 3:56 PM on April 29, 2010


So some data entry clerk at the SSA processes your paperwork incorrectly and INS comes along and kicks you out of the country? That does not seem optimal.

You're right, it's not optimal. But that's why there are deportation proceedings, during which the data entry error should be exposed.

Is there a good reason why employers should be privy to their employees' immigration status in the first place?

I think it was during the Reagan or Bush I years when these paperwork verification measures were put into place. Ostensibly, with the goal of removing the allure of emigrating to the US for employment, because if you don't have the paperwork, you can't get a job, etc.
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on April 29, 2010


Unless I'm missing something in the way of logic, I view illegal immigration as being a related issue to global free trade. There are those of us who lament the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, ones that pay employees far less, both in that US jobs are being lost and it also provides a way for these countries to continue child labor or sub-standard wages. Is there much difference between farming out manufacturing to these countries, and having an illegal workforce here who may not have access to benefits, grievance procedures, safety inspections, and decent wages, but who can still continue to make remittances to home countries? To me the only difference is that the work is being done on US soil, and may happen primarily in the service sector or construction, rather than manufacturing. The wages may be more livable than what Nike is paying for manufacturing, but the principle is still the same.

With the decline of unionization in the US over the past 5 decades, we've lost the ability to assert that the wages paid should be enough to provide for a decent living. There are unions who don't care so much about immigration status, but who view the wages paid as the key to maintaining a standard of living in the US. Immigration would be far less of an issue if the perception or reality wasn't that those people who are here illegally weren't driving down wages by simply willing to do a job for less.

An employer who knowingly hires people they shouldn't ought to face penalties. Their practices have far greater ramifications than just their restaurant or construction company, or even the people they employ.
posted by l2p at 4:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least they used the criminal forfeiture process, instead of the civil forfeiture. It's probably a matter of time before some enterprising local or state government decides to copy this idea with civil proceedings, though. Really, in terms of property forfeiture this isn't all that unusual, or surprising.
posted by _cave at 4:08 PM on April 29, 2010


Is there a good reason why employers should be privy to their employees' immigration status in the first place?

Depends on the industry. I'm in Canada and the work I do for the film biz is eligible for provincial tax breaks, so the companies I freelance for require me to sign a declaration on citizenship and residency. There were cases a few years back where producers were contracting work to their friends but having it ghostwritten by americans.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:10 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The hapless employer being snookered by slick phoney documentation is largely a myth. I am sure there are a few instances of undocumented workers occasionally pulling one over on an employer, but I doubt in such one-off instances the employer would be harshly penalized. More often, the employers that hire under the table are doing so with eyes wide open to gain enormous competitive advantages through lower wages and avoidance of taxes and benefits - which in turn depresses wages and causes a tax drain that we all pay for. In certain industries - agriculture, construction, food & hospitality, and home workers - the practice is systemic.

This restaurant might have been very good to the undocumented workers, but employers who circumvent wage and hour laws are not doing it for the workers benefit but for their own. It's a practice that hurts us all.

Employees that fall outside the protection of laws are subject to exploitation. I do some consulting in workers comp - believe me when I say that undocumented workers have the least safe jobs and little to no protection when they are injured and it can get very ugly. Modern day slavery may not be the norm - but it unfortunately ain't the exception.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:12 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why are business owners on the hook for the fraudulent actions of others?

This kind of question makes me want to pick up the phone and yell at you.
posted by phaedon at 4:14 PM on April 29, 2010


Illegal immigrant workers are here and working because they WANT TO. Yes, we've seen some great posts about slavery among migrant workers in the U.S. but that IS NOT TYPICAL!

While it takes so long that the visible changes in life style and educational advancement are generational, OUR "illegal" immigrants work very hard to bring themselves and their families out of abject poverty. They are very successful at that. Their dream is to become tax paying citizens. I don't know why anyone could rally against that. It's the American dream.

This case in San Diego has little to do with immigration and a LOT to do with the folks at the restaurant starting a shoving match with officials. They won't win and they're just silly. Not rectifying the SSN situation is the problem, not the hiring of "illegals".

If anyone thinks that this has anything to do with immigration laws, go to any Denny's or Los Panchos in Southern California and do a Green Card check in the kitchen. That is to say that any serious enforcement of immigration law would really eff up the California economy. Like THAT needs help being effed up.
posted by snsranch at 4:17 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are business owners on the hook for the fraudulent actions of others?

Restaurants - even servers - can be liable when they accept fake IDs - even sophisticated ones. When I waited on tables, the fine for the server was much more severe than for the person who used the fake ID. At least in some states, restaurants and liquor stores can be shut down for accepting fake IDs.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:19 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they are doing valuable work, they should be paid in kind. Anything else, in my opinion, is slavery. That the slave is willing to accept his enslavement because he has no other options does not in any way justify or rationalize it.

It's that "because he has no other options" part that sinks the rest of the argument. After all, the major reason why the slavery analogy is silly? People actually were, once, captured and chained and shipped to America to labor. Them, we refer(red) to as "slaves." By contrast, the people we refer to today as "illegal aliens" are living in working in this country volitionally. To say that's a really big difference is to understate the case.

I tend to agree that confiscating the entire property is disproportional, but punishing the business is absolutely the right call. It's a bit black-&-white to say these businesses are "abusing" the employment situation, because it's true that many restaurants make only razor-thin profits and couldn't make those without paying subpar wages...but they are knowingly breaking the law.
posted by cribcage at 4:21 PM on April 29, 2010


More often, the employers that hire under the table are doing so with eyes wide open to gain enormous competitive advantages through lower wages and avoidance of taxes and benefits - which in turn depresses wages and causes a tax drain that we all pay for.

Lower wages are a feature, not a bug.
posted by ripley_ at 4:22 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should clarify and say that I really don't have any beef with people who are here trying to work, nor with employers who want to find workers for their businesses. I don't have any good solutions. It just feels to me that, as things currently stand (and have stood for a while), the focus of actions like the one outlined in this FPP are directed against the wrong party.

This case in San Diego has little to do with immigration and a LOT to do with the folks at the restaurant starting a shoving match with officials. ...

If anyone thinks that this has anything to do with immigration laws, go to any Denny's or Los Panchos in Southern California and do a Green Card check in the kitchen.


Exactly. This entire thing stinks to me of being much less about trying to enforce documented worker status laws and much more about something *else*, although I'm not entirely sure what. My points earlier were trying to point out what might/ought to happen if they really ARE serious about illegal workers.
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they really wanted to make this process stick, it would play out very differently. Once the SSA had determined that someone's paperwork was bogus, they would not send out a letter to the restaurant. They would alert INS who would then immediately arrest and set deportation in progress. Period. No letter to the business owner to was taken in by documents which they feel look real. They'd arrest the people who presented the offending paperwork and move forward with charges of fraud and illegal entry. Period.

This would not change anything. If the business owner is not at risk, they will keep doing it, and someone else who is desperate enough will take the job that opens up when that guy is deported.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:34 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for reading that hippybear.

I should note, too, that the illegal immigrants we're talking about come from a level of poverty that makes it impossible for them to take the necessary actions to become "legal" immigrants.

From what I've known, they come here, make some money and then work out the legalities when they can afford to do so.
posted by snsranch at 4:38 PM on April 29, 2010


Rounding up the usual suspects. Film at 11.
posted by Twang at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2010


because it's true that many restaurants make only razor-thin profits and couldn't make those without paying subpar wages...but they are knowingly breaking the law.

Well, it's not true that every restaurant hires undocumented workers. I worked in the business for a long time. It is true that wages aren't great at the bottom of the ladder and never get very good unless you're a chef, in some places a manager does alright, otherwise you depend on tips to make good money. But it's not the case that every restaurant gets by with illegal hiring practices. The restaurant business is tough, but that's really not a good reason, because adopting illegal hiring practices is certainly not a requirement to being successful. I saw more illegal hiring in the hotel industry than the strictly restaurant business (and of course casual and semi-skilled labor), but YMMV.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want to legalize prostitution in your town, and half the City Council goes on and on about how the women are harlots who are corrupting our moral fiber and think of the children, send the police to the brothel and have them arrest a few councilmen in flagrante delicto.

Now replace prostitute with undocumented immigrant, sheriff with executive branch / justice department, and councilman/john with right-leaning business interests and their congressional playthings.
posted by condour75 at 4:43 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're making an example of them, duh! Cuz it's a French restaurant!

So, who at Goldman Sachs is willing to renounce their citizenship for the good of the glorious workers' paradise?

Fabrice Tourre?


Ah, eetz all ze Frenches fault!

Freedom Fries For All!
posted by ericb at 5:19 PM on April 29, 2010


Looks like they're still hiring.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:21 PM on April 29, 2010


1) The French Gourmet is not an iconic restaurant in San Diego. At all. Most people here have never heard of it.

2) I spend a lot of time in San Diego finding great authentic Mexican food. I go to places all the time where I'm one of the only English speakers. I don't care, no one does, since the food is incredible. And the idea that The Man is going to crack down on restaurants in San Diego for hiring illegal residents is ludicrous.

If you got rid of illegal residents in San Diego you'd create a crisis that would bring the metro area to complete chaos. I personally would join the riots in the street to get my tacos back. I warn you DO NOT make me eat "Mexican" food at El Indio. I'll march into city hall with a torch and a pitchfork.

KEEP THE HAND OF GOVERNMENT OFF MY TACOS!!!!
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:29 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hippybear, the DHS has a system in place to check the eligblity of non-citIzens for housing benefits. I log into the website and input either an alien number or an admission number and the site tells me the person's status (permanent resident, aslyee, refugee, non-immigrant...) it's not hard to use, but scaling up so every employer can check their employees would probably be very difficult.
posted by vespabelle at 5:33 PM on April 29, 2010


hippybear: "Once the SSA had determined that someone's paperwork was bogus, they would not send out a letter to the restaurant. They would alert INS who would then immediately arrest and set deportation in progress. Period. No letter to the business owner"


Speaking as someone who has been the subject of these "no match" letters multiple times, because I have only had an SS# for 10 years and have a long name that is frequently abbreviated or shortened on paperwork... not feasible. You would catch so many people who are legal to work that the costs, both to the state and to the individuals erroneously targeted, would be astronomical for the net outcome.

Also it makes me feel squicky.
posted by subbes at 5:43 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


">How to Solve Illegal Immigration.
posted by ovvl at 6:06 PM on April 29, 2010


My mother was working at the French Gourmet when I was born, and for the next few years after. The restaurant was a few blocks from our home, which was a few blocks from where she grew up. She has always spoken highly of Michel and the employees that worked there; the Letters to the Editor at the SD Union Tribune do as well, speaking to his philanthropy and 30+ years as a local employment anchor. I spoke to her just now after reading this, and she pointed out that while he employs illegal immigrants, some of them have been his employees since he first started. There are certainly instances in which the specifics of such a case could be pointed out as evidence of malfeasance, but I really don't think that's the case here. When the same employees have been working alongside you for thirty years, if there's something that they need done in order to maintain the existence they've spent decades working for, you do what you can to help them. We speak constantly about the distinction between legality and ethics, and I think this is one of the gaps.
posted by duende at 6:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's pretty easy to check somebody's status, if you have the tools. I'm an immigrant. When I got my driver's license in New Hampshire, they called somebody who was able to confirm that my alien number matched my social security number and both matched my name. I don't know who they called - it's New Hampshire, so they were all, "hey, Shirley, I have another one, can you check it for me" - but it was an outside line with ten digits. Several times when I've started a job I've watched them input the info for my I-9, because people frequently do it wrong and try to put in my permanent resident card as a B document and then I get rejected and it's a pain in the ass, so if I can watch I do. They type the info in and wait a few minutes and it comes back accepted or rejected. Those systems are comparing the data they've entered against a database somewhere. These were big employers, and I presume these systems cost money that a restaurant or other small business wouldn't be able to afford. If we were serious about preventing illegal immigrants from working, the USCIS would have an 800 number so employers could phone and find out if the alien number matches the social matches the name.

Obviously we're not serious about it.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:20 PM on April 29, 2010


I'm an exterminator. One of the most common problems is ants in the kitchen. I will go in and inspect to find out why the ants are there; they don't just come to hang out, there must be something they want. So if there is a bunch of crumbs under the kitchen equipment all I can do is spray a barrier around the baseboards and tell the owner to clean up or else the problem will return. If Glenn Beck came on the TV and said "You don't have to clean up. Tell the exterminator to build a fence around your kitchen and squash each ant with his thumb one by one ," it would only make my job harder.
TL;DR- the corporate media is making things worse.
posted by ambulocetus at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "Not to support the broken immigration system, but illegal immigrants don't live in a bubble of self-dependency, relying solely on crooks to survive. There are families and communities that support immigrants, legal or not, and act as a conduit between legitimate businesses and government transactions and people living in the US without documentation. Some business owners are aiding and abetting illegal immigrants to increase their profits, while others are helping people."

Thank you. Some of the descriptions of immigrant life in this thread betray an ignorance of actual immigrants.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2010


My solution to the "illegal immigrant situation" the US: everybody stops eating for two or three years. That will flush them out...
posted by peeedro at 9:07 PM on April 29, 2010


cribcage: It's that "because he has no other options" part that sinks the rest of the argument. After all, the major reason why the slavery analogy is silly? People actually were, once, captured and chained and shipped to America to labor. Them, we refer(red) to as "slaves." By contrast, the people we refer to today as "illegal aliens" are living in working in this country volitionally. To say that's a really big difference is to understate the case.

On the other hand, I think you can make a strong argument for illegal immigration being serfdom, which is not as bad as slavery but certainly on the same continuum.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:09 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The hapless employer being snookered by slick phoney documentation is largely a myth.

I'm not sure that's the case at all. My current Social Security card, which is admittedly pretty old, looks like it would be dirt-simple to forge. It's basically just heavy blue and white paper with simple printing. I don't think it would be at all difficult to come up with a copy that amateurs wouldn't be able to differentiate from the real thing.

More recent cards may be better.

It's also worth pointing out that this restaurant was taking and filing paperwork for these people, and presumably trying to withhold Social Security. If they were truly being purposefully fraudulent, why on earth would they file anything at all? Why draw attention to themselves?
posted by Malor at 9:36 PM on April 29, 2010


I find it more than a little strange that the feds suddenly decided to seize a single restaurant where "18 undocumented workers" were found when just a couple of years ago they could've had an entire meatpacking plant employing "290 Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, 2 Israelis and 4 Ukrainians" who were arrested on immigration charges during the largest immigration raid in U.S. history. (As an aside, said raid did not take place in California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico or any other location usually associated with illegal immigration).

Think of all that guv'mint cheese beef we could be eating. No, instead we end up owning 60% of some last-century auto manufacturer.
posted by webhund at 9:38 PM on April 29, 2010


The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

--Woody Guthrie
posted by tzikeh at 9:41 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Speaking as someone who has been the subject of these "no match" letters multiple times, because I have only had an SS# for 10 years and have a long name that is frequently abbreviated or shortened on paperwork... not feasible. You would catch so many people who are legal to work that the costs, both to the state and to the individuals erroneously targeted, would be astronomical for the net outcome.

Well, see... again, I should state that I'm not actually advocating for this whole scheme. But is it better to be seizing property of business owners who were presented with fraudulent documentation and blaming them for not recognizing falsified papers when presented with them?

The entire scheme is broken somehow. The paperwork showing that someone is eligible to work in the US isn't verified in a timely manner, and that is the crux of the matter. If we have laws on the books which require people to prove themselves eligible before being employed, then we need to develop some way to have those documents verified pretty much nearly instantly, or within 24-48 hours. Until that is in place, either we continue to seize property of businesses which are employing people because they didn't catch the fraud, or we pursue those who present the fraudulent paperwork, and we don't do either of those things efficiently or consistently. And that lack of timely verification shows up within our economy as giant holes which are exploited by both those seeking work illegally and those seeking to make a buck off that grey market workforce. I'm not sure a business which (as was mentioned above) is reporting the paperwork of their hires and paying payroll taxes on the employees falls into either of those catageories.
posted by hippybear at 10:07 PM on April 29, 2010


When the same employees have been working alongside you for thirty years, if there's something that they need done in order to maintain the existence they've spent decades working for, you do what you can to help them. We speak constantly about the distinction between legality and ethics, and I think this is one of the gaps.

That's a good point, but the reason the hiring of undocumented workers is as popular as it is with many employers is not only because they generally get away with it, but also because it costs less than hiring someone local. Even if the worker is getting a decent enough wage, there are no guarantees and no recourse, no insurance and no unemployment. Sure, some employers treat their undocumented employees well, but they do this out of the goodness of their hearts. Unfortunately, that's not enough to ensure that people aren't being exploited. If it were, we could forgo any business regulation and just depend on people to act out of their inherent sense of fairness, but clearly that does not work - we have to codify fairness into law for it to be effective, and these immigrant workers do not have the benefit of the law to protect them, so you can bet they are exploited.

I do understand why the situation is difficult, but I have a hard time defending the status quo, which is really just a neverending supply of underground labor propping up an alarming amount of our business and industry, all while politicians use the issue as a wedge, as if we're blind to what's going on all around us. We can debate the ethics of breaking the law in order to survive and try to make a way for yourself, but if nothing changes then we're not owning up to the issue. I don't think we need to become draconian and put up giant walls at the border, but what we really need to do is to stop lying to ourselves and adopt more sensible labor and immigration policies and start examining why there is this problem at the border in the first place. It's a deep issue, but sentimental anecdotes pointing to how it works out for some people tend to cloud the reality that the situation is untenable.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:27 PM on April 29, 2010


There was an earlier comment about the surprise that all the regular Metafilter Blue types have seemed to show some Red (Red State -- not Red Commie) colors on this issue. You know, call me anal, but I never could ultimately believe in completely open borders. It just seems to me there should be some accounting of who goes in and out, as well as limitations taking into account economic realities. Having done immigration law work, I can tell you from my work, there are a large number of illegal aliens do have some nasty criminal records dating back to their country of origin, and on that basis alone, I must admit, I would rather have them stopped at the border and prevented entry.

But so what? Most don't! So, the thing that bugs me about the immigration issue is that by and large, there is so much hypocrisy, and so much hatred against the illegals themselves vs. the organizations that depend on and hire the illegals that most of the laws always smack of "soft targets." I mean let's face it, it's so much easier to write a law that penalizes the poor illegal than the big businesses themselves. You've got politicians who spout the conservative rhetoric but ultimately only legislate laws that penalize the guy at the bottom of the totem. That's absolutely contemptible. I'm not so much against some kind of immigration laws, but what I find disgusting is the idea that the legislators who draft laws like the recent one in AZ that penalizes the guy at the bottom while the same legislators represent constituents who make use of these same illegals. I wouldn't be surprised if there were CEO's of big companies that hire illegals who vote for these same punitive laws. It's just cruel.

Years ago I heard about some law in one of the San Joaquin Valley counties that required certain agricultural work to be done with only short-handled hoes which served no other purpose than to break the back of the illegal worker. It's probably apocryphal, but it wouldn't surprise me. Humans can be so punitive, and for what? So you don't have to hear a foreign language spoken in your presence? My God, saints preserve us! Tough life! I won't entirely buy that these jobs are all jobs that no natural born American would take. There might be workers who would take these jobs if illegal aliens weren't allowed, but by and large I suspect that analysis isn't far off. The pay would probably be better. There would probably be better legal protections, but then it seems to me the American economy has always had this semi/overt slave labor at the bottom to build up capital for people at the top. It's just a big goddamned ponzi scheme.

As a Californian, the idea of having no illegal aliens doing the farm work suggests to me that price of all our groceries would go up even higher than they are. I can tolerate it -- I'm kind of a socialist. If I knew it meant nobody would be abused and treated like crap in the fields, it would be fine with me, which is not to say I am too happy about how the alien field workers are treated now. But the so-called vibrancy of the American casino economy touted by that same unnamed political all-American party that tends to vote against the illegals wouldn't.

To me it's a simple decision: either spend the money to make the borders secure, penalize the big businesses, and build a really tough giant wall with all the bells and whistles, all with what will most likely result in a pyrrhic victory where everything becomes really expensive at the grocery store, taxes go up considerably to fund this amazing Maginot line, or thank the good Lord you still can afford to eat out at restaurants and buy your groceries for cheaper than many other places in the world. If that's what people want, great. One argument might be made that social services wouldn't be drained and so the whole thing would balance out. I just don't buy it. To have the USA look like the Minutemen want is going to be ridiculously costly. And, btw, result in much more "BIG GOVERNMENT" which we know these types are so fond of.

Looked at in that light, it seems to me the Minutemen types of the USA are holding out for little more than an impractical, symbolic but unrealistic conceit the consequences of which they are too goddamned stupid to grasp. Must I have to listen to these assholes who have nothing better to do than beat up on illegal immigrants? Get a life!

And btw, even nothing more than a bare first year Con law class would suggest that the new AZ law as enacted by the STATE, has about as much chance of surviving constitutional parsing as Paris Hilton has of never buying another g-string. I suspect it would fail at least in part constitutionally even enacted at the federal level. Then again, Ms. Hilton might be going in for bullet bras and grandma underwear now, I don't know.
posted by CarsonDyle at 10:31 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Years ago I heard about some law in one of the San Joaquin Valley counties that required certain agricultural work to be done with only short-handled hoes which served no other purpose than to break the back of the illegal worker. It's probably apocryphal, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I don't know about requiring the use of the short-handled hoe, per se, but I know that Cesar Chavez organized what became the UFW, and that eventually led to Rose Bird banning its use when she was CA Secretary of Agriculture, which had long been sought by the UFW.
posted by hippybear at 10:48 PM on April 29, 2010


I've always maintained that if the US government were serious about ending illegal immigration the solution is simple: impose harsh criminal penalties for hiring illegals and enforce them viciously. Militarizing the border is just plain stupid, and guaranteed to be ineffective.

I couldn't agree more. Seriously. If you want to end illegal immigration in this country, send the head of any company that hires an illegal alien to prison with a minimum mandatory sentence of at least a year, maybe more like five. I mean, if there is an illegal alien emptying waste baskets at Microsoft, Bill Gates (or whomever is CEO now) does time with no chance of parole. Anything less is just B.S. politicking.
posted by lordrunningclam at 4:39 AM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


The slave master only let them speak in sign language
And they’re suffering from lung disease and eye damage
fourteen hour shifts, seven days a week
two shitty meals a day, very little sleep
Human life only worth three cents an hour
All human right laws loose sense of power
What did four hundred years in the grave pass us?
Only the improved cleverness of slave masters.


Jedi Mind Tricks "Shadow Business"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:51 AM on April 30, 2010


I'm an exterminator. One of the most common problems is ants in the kitchen. I will go in and inspect to find out why the ants are there; they don't just come to hang out, there must be something they want. So if there is a bunch of crumbs under the kitchen equipment all I can do is spray a barrier around the baseboards and tell the owner to clean up or else the problem will return. If Glenn Beck came on the TV and said "You don't have to clean up. Tell the exterminator to build a fence around your kitchen and squash each ant with his thumb one by one ," it would only make my job harder.

Pssst, just a tip - comparing the issue of immigrants to a plague of vermin you work hard to exterminate isn't the best way to frame your point, no matter what side you're arguing.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:59 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


short-handled hoes which served no other purpose than to break the back of the illegal worker

A better-documented claim is that it allowed supervisors to tell when workers were resting (they had to stand up, instead of just leaning on the handle). This makes a lot of sense, although the rationalization used was that it forced workers to be more careful.

There is a short-handled hoe in the Smithsonian.
posted by dhartung at 12:34 PM on April 30, 2010


One argument might be made that social services wouldn't be drained

But illegal immigrants stay far, far away from social services of any type. They only use them in the most dire of emergencies, while steadily paying taxes through sales tax and various use fees. From what I've read, from a government perspective, they're net cashflow positive.
posted by Malor at 7:14 PM on April 30, 2010


Malor Which is why we should encourage them to use those services earlier, especially medical services. Leaving aside moral and humanitarian arguments, the economic argument is, from what I understand, pretty clear. If illegals get medical treatment sooner it'll cost less than if they wait until the last minute and get the really expensive treatment in the ER.
posted by sotonohito at 4:11 AM on May 1, 2010


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