Counties in Eastern Kansas are being raided. Employers and employees, alike, are at risk of criminal charges if they work without proper documentation or hire workers who are without proper work authorization from the US government. What initially looked like one prosecutor’s office’s harsh enforcement of Immigration laws, under the veil of State law, against undocumented workers has revealed itself to be much more.
For the second time, in less than two months, Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement “ICE” has offered for prosecution, cases against employers hiring undocumented workers. After executing search warrants the day before, on November 6, the owners of Wei’s Super Buffet restaurant in Olathe were charged in Federal District Court with harboring undocumented workers who were in the United States unlawfully. The investigation, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Kansas, has alleged that “beginning in February 2011 agents of Homeland Security Investigations began surveillance on the owners, managers and employees at Wei’s Super Buffet. They checked Quarterly Wage Report and Unemployment Tax Returns submitted by the restaurant to the Kansas Department of Labor and they identified employees who were illegally present in the United States. They also identified apartments rented by the defendants where undocumented workers were living.”
This latest enforcement action follows the raid, on September 20, 2013, of another restaurant. The restaurant manager of El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant in Ottawa, Kan., was charged, again by the US Attorney’s Office, with four counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and five counts of encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States for financial gain. The investigation of these alleged crimes also occurred between September 7, 2011 and June 14, 2013 by ICE. According to Court documents, “HSI special agents received information that El Mezcal was not completing I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms for its employees, as required by federal law for all U.S. businesses. HSI special agents reviewed the restaurant’s documents and discovered the restaurant did not have I-9 forms for 14 employees.”
In both cases, if convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. If the owners are not US citizens, there are also sure to be immigration consequences which have the potential of jeopardizing their abilities to remain in the US.
If these cases are any indication, it would not be surprising if more employers and employees will become the target of ICE’s efforts to crackdown on unauthorized employment practices. Employees should always take precautions to ensure that their documents are in order and are authentic. Employers should, likewise, take steps to put preventative measures in place to ensure compliance with US immigration laws.
Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law is a Kansas City, Missouri, firm deeply experienced in the complexities of immigration litigation. Whether you are facing criminal or civil litigation in state, federal or immigration court, in Kansas or Missouri – the caring professionals at Sharma-Crawford can help you navigate through the complex legal system. Sharma-Crawford now also offers a full range of business related immigration services. For more information, please call (816) 994-2300. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The information contained in this article is general information and should not be considered legal counsel.