we need a guest worker program for jobs citizens won’t do

September 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

ventura county star           An attorney for one of the owners of an Oxnard company who was arrested this week on suspicion of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants called the federal immigration agents’ action “overkill” and politically motivated. “ICE could have proceeded civilly, instead of with criminal charges,” said David McLane, who represents Dennis and Wayne Haddox at Masters in Metal. “These men have no criminal records. They are long-standing employers.” McLane argued that the two Oxnard men, who were both arrested Thursday, did their best to follow proper procedures in employing two men found to be undocumented workers. “If there was a lack of compliance, it wasn’t because of a lack of good faith to comply with the laws,” McLane said. Federal immigration officials said the arrests were warranted because the case was so egregious and pointed to the economy, not the nation’s emotionally charged immigration debate, as the driving motivation. The Oxnard company was one of 36 local employers — which hire “hundreds to just four or five” people — audited over the past four or five years, and Thursday’s arrests marked the first during that time, said David Wales, resident agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Ventura County. The agency does not release names of employers audited. “The vast majority of audited companies come into compliance on their own,” he said. Criminal prosecutions are rare but help reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect job opportunities for the nation’s lawful work force, Wales said. “Jobs in this economy are difficult to come by, and we are trying to stem the flow of people coming into this country illegally and filling these jobs,” he said. Federal policy requires all employers be given advance notice by ICE investigators that their personnel records will be audited. And companies are told by ICE agents that their workers are undocumented and are given time and information on how to resolve all issues. Employers who don’t heed the advice and flout the law will face consequences, Wales said. “We want to get the message out that we are actively working these cases,” he said, adding that no crackdown is in effect, but his office has received additional federal funding. Henry Vega, a Santa Paula labor contractor who works with growers, said the current system puts the employer “between a rock and a hard place” because they have to treat prospective workers fairly yet act as the policemen. “If we deny someone based on some suspicion, then we are blamed for being discriminatory,” he said. He said the country needs a guest worker program for jobs lawful citizens won’t do, a program that “no one currently wants to touch with a 10-foot pole.”

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