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Produce plant needs to verify worker status

In a move that could impact workers in Florida, federal immigration authorities swooped into a Washington produce company and asked an estimated 90 percent of the workers to provide the necessary papers to prove their legal employment. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found payroll discrepancies after an audit and requested the documentation. However, they did not specify how many workers were impacted.

ICE conducted the audit in August 2013 and began informing targeted workers in September. Those who do not comply with the immigration requirements could be laid off starting May 19. However, the company is invested in ensuring that the workers have the proper information and ability to produce correct documentation. Federal guidelines give the workers 10 days to submit corrected paperwork. The affected workers received notices and forms to return if they cited any mistakes in their work records. Dozens of the employees participated in a walkout on May 9. Some had been at the apple-packaging plant for at least 12 years while others had children dependent on their income. One woman, a 14-year employee, observed she had never been asked for documents. She explained that she had not received a raise in five years. Some of the workers believe that the company is taking advantage of their lack of papers.

President Obama's administration has seen a significant increase in ICE audits to keep illegal workers at bay. Sanctions include fines and even criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers. However, some immigration advocates do not think that the sanctions have helped.

Undocumented workers might not always understand how to seek legal status. An immigration lawyer might be able to help a client who has been in the U.S. for years as they work to obtain legal residency.

Source: Fox News Latino, "After Immigration Audit, 90% Of Workers At Apple-Packing Plant In WA Asked To Prove Status", May 12, 2014

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