Sunday, February 27, 2011

Largest ICE Raid in US History: Howard Industries Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Violate Immigration Laws

On August 25, 2008, in Laurel, Mississippi, the largest ICE Raid in US History took place. Immigration agents swooped down on Howard Industries, a Mississippi electrical equipment factory, taking 481 workers to a privately-run detention center in Jena, Louisiana. A hundred and six women were also arrested at the plant, and released wearing shackles, electronic monitoring devices on their ankles. Many of the women were pregnant. Eight workers were taken to Federal court in Hattiesburg, where they were charged with aggravated identity theft. Meanwhile, the company repeatedly denied allegations that it had knowingly hired individuals without work authorization, putting all of the blame on its human resources manager, Jose Humberto Gonzalez, who was later charged in a 25-count indictment with conspiracy and employee verification fraud.

Last Thursday, Howard Industries pled guilty to conspiracy to violate immigration laws. They also agreed to pay a $2.5 million fine (largest fine ever in the state of Mississippi), which is roughly 5 times the standard penalty, supposedly for the actions of their one human resources manager. Clearly, there was significant wrong-doing here by the company to warrant such steep penalties.

According to court documents, their HR Manager routinely hired unauthorized workers. He solicited them. He utilized e-verify procedures. He accepted false documents, including social security cards; when he found this information false, he completed the I-9 documentation with bogus information. It is important to note that only 8 of the nearly 600 arrested were charged with any sort of identity theft. It is clear those falsifying data for the workers was the company itself. The HR Manager also regularly instructed employees to obtain alternative identity documents which he knew falsely represented their true identities and assured Spanish-speaking workers at the plant that he would warn them in the event of a raid. The HR Manager pled guilty in December 2009 to conspiracy and admitted that he hired hundreds of people who he knew were not authorized to work. He faces a maximum of 5 years of imprisonment on the conspiracy charge and on each employee verification fraud count. He also faces a minimum of 2 years of imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft charge and possible fine up to $250,000. However, he has yet to spend a day in prison or pay a dime of the fines.

As I have long reported, it is Big Business that entices/hires the so called "illeegals" to work here. In the Laurel case, Howard Industries received a large government contract in 2002. They quickly needed 1000 productive workers to fill the need. They consciously recruited and hired workers from south of the border. They provided them false documentation. Their HR Dept. told them they would alert them if there was an upcoming ICE Raid.

What is also interesting is, prior to the ICE Raids, the undocumented workers were being recruited by their Local Unions and the workers were starting to sign up. This same scenario happened in Postville, Iowa. The workers were being solicited by Local Unions prior to their ICE Raid. In Laurel and in Postville, as soon as the workers starting listening to the Unions, started talking about unsafe working conditions, no breaks and lower wages, at that point, both Employers started working with ICE and massive ICE Raids occurred. Laurel had the largest ICE Raid in US History. Postville had the 2nd largest. In both cases, the workers were whisked away to Privately Owned Detention Centers -- owned by Republican donors. Laurel workers were whisked away to the Jena Louisiana private prison. The Postville workers were whisked to Texas Private Prisons before eventually being sent back to their countries of origin.

I find the actions of Howard Industries despicable. They solicited and recruited these workers, providing them false papers and false promises. Many of the workers were recruited from ravaged countries like Guatemala. They used them, shackled them, imprisoned them and sent them back. Howard Industries and Agriprocessors did the same exploitation as many other Businesses, the difference is in the number of workers they abused then swept away.

Why are Howard Industries and Agriprocessors being punished when other employers have NOT been punished? I imagine it is quite a surprise to them that they are being held accountable. Afterall, the ICE Raids occurred during the Bush Administration. Both companies were big RNC contributors. Howard Industries had just received a huge government contract. How could they know the Obama Administration would promise that Employers would be held accountable and they would be the primary target for prosecution. How would they know that the World is watching to see if President Obama keeps this promise.

Howard Industries and Agriprocessors were both blatant in their actions in the number of workers hired; blatant in their abuse of e-verify and creating false documentation, blatant in contacting ICE once the workers sought relief from Unions for their mistreatment and unsafe working conditions. Postville Owners were punished; now Laurel has pleaded guilty for their crimes. May the owners and those responsible for their actions be punished to the fullest degree.
It is time for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. No rational person expects Mass Deportation to occur. A recent Pew poll indicated that the vast majority of Americans do NOT support Mass Deportation and support a path to citizenship for those here. Until CIR is passed, we are going to see the continued exploitation of workers and the continued Racial Profiling and Race-Based Hate Bills as is occurring in Arizona.

I doubt, however, that CIR will be introduced before 2013. Sad to say, it appears we are going to continue to live in status quo until after the next election.
Mississippi Manufacturer Agrees to Pay Record $2.5 million fine for Immigration and I-9 Violations
Howard Industries Human Resources Manager Charged with Conspiracy and Employee Verification Fraud

Did a Mississippi Raid Protect Rightwing Politicians?


Vicente Duque said...

"Failed State" Arizona : Assault on sane governance, monumental ruination - Bill 1433 allows state legislature to choose which federal laws it will follow - Arizona rejects and denies any expanded authority that the federal government may attempt to enforce - Nativist Separatism and Secession

"A primary issue with the Arizona-style attempt to secede is its blatant hypocrisy"

"In this sense, the real problem with secession is its ready cooptation as a tool of tyranny, akin to the "we don't need no stinkin' badges" rationalization of justice blithely denied"

Huffington Post
Morning in America: If at First You Don't Secede...
March 2, 2011

By Randall Amster
Educator; author; editor, New Clear Vision
Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies and is Chair of the Master's Program in Humanities at Prescott College ( in Arizona ), and also serves as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent books are the co-edited volumes Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009) and Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy (Routledge, 2009), and the single-authored work Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly 2008).

Dr. Amster writes a regular op-ed column for his local newspaper, edits a national peace and justice newsletter, and is the founding editor of the news and opinion website, New Clear Vision. He also serves on the editorial advisory boards for the Contemporary Justice Review, the Peace Studies Journal, and the Journal of Sustainability Education. Along with his partner and two young sons, he lives on a small ranch in the desert mountains where the deer and the antelope still actually play.

Morning in America: If at First You Don't Secede...

Some excerpts :

If there's another state in the union with a competing claim to be the frontline of reactionary politics gone haywire, it is surely Arizona. Beset by invidious legislation and a decimated economy, among other issues, the nascent "failed state" ethos that has taken hold in the desert is escalating even as the leading edge of a people's movement begins to push back half a continent away. While Phoenix bears little overt resemblance to Madison, either geographically or politically, the national assault on sane governance compels us to explore the linkage.


Vicente Duque said...


For sheer temerity, the Grand Canyon State remains unparalleled in its monumental ruination. Following the international debacle that was SB 1070 and the national tragedy of the Tucson massacre, the state legislature has been hard at work to eliminate the vestiges of the public healthcare system, deny organ transplants to dying patients, cut educational spending to the bone, and pass titanic corporate tax cuts at the same time. Perhaps even more shockingly, with the Safeway shootings still fresh in the populace's mind, the legislature is now advancing a bill to adopt an official state gun, namely the Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Nero may have famously fiddled while Rome burned, but Arizona is close to one-upping him.

As if to reinforce the audacity of hopelessness that has become the state's nouveau calling card, Arizona's rightwing supermajority is poised to pass Senate Bill 1433, which essentially allows the state legislature to choose which federal laws it will follow. The measure reads like a convoluted law school exam response to a question about constitutional arcana, and contains a number of thinly-veiled secessionist provisions that hark back to antebellum days -- perhaps unsurprising, since Arizona was the only western territory to support the slaveholding states, and obviously has its own sordid racialized history to grapple with in the present as well.

Among SB 1433's problematic provisions are the notion that Arizona "specifically rejects and denies any expanded authority that the federal government may attempt to enforce;" that "the Congress and the federal government are denied the power to establish laws within this state that are repugnant and obtrusive to state law and to the people in this state;" that "Congress and the federal government are denied the power to bind the states under foreign statute or case law other than those provisions duly ratified by the Congress as a treaty;" that "no authority has ever been given to the legislative branch, the executive branch or the judicial branch of the federal government to preempt state legislation;" and that "this act serves as a notice and demand to the Congress and the federal government to cease and desist all activities outside the scope of their constitutionally designated powers."

This is, of course, driven in part by the federal government's lawsuit to block implementation of SB 1070, which was enjoined in large measure by a federal judge last summer. The arch-conservative cadre that has been ruling Arizona like a feudal fiefdom in recent years is likewise bound up with a national effort to promote "divide and conquer" policies, anti-public and anti-worker austerity measures, and odious laws aimed at marginalized populations. What we've been waking up to coming out of Wisconsin is perhaps the first large-scale salvo in confronting this neo-fascistic narrative and invigorating a popular uprising against its worst abuses -- many of which continue to be plied in the trial-balloon case study that is Arizona.

In an attempt to expose the disingenuousness and stem the tide of nativist separatism, an amendment to SB 1433 was offered (and of course defeated) that would have taken secession to its next logical level by allowing localities to absent themselves from being ruled by the state legislature itself, as described by the Arizona Republic:

Edward said...

Identity theft often done by people who wants to commit crimes by not using their own identity. Many reports of identity theft cases were not solved by the authorities.

cail said...

The US immigration is having a lot of problem like those illegal immigrants , people were getting mad at them because they say that the immigration was unlawful.


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's desicable it's called free market, if there's free transfer of goods why no free transfer of workforce? If companies prefer foreigners to americans it only means americans are not enough productive and demand too much for the work, recent protests to raise mcdonald min wage to 20 bucks for instance. Same happenned with car industry they demanded 50 bux for bolting on wheels to chevy, that's why they are now being bolted in mexico for 10 bux an hour.

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