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Work authorization, part 2: the Chipotle case and silent raids

This is a follow-up to our post last week on work authorization for immigrants. As we discussed in that post, the use of “silent raids” in the form of employment eligibility audits by federal agents has had a chilling effect on many businesses.

Minnesota immigrants have been directly affected by these audits. In one high-profile case involving the Chipotle restaurant chain, about 450 workers in Minnesota lost their jobs. That was between 30 and 40 percent of the chain’s entire workforce in Minnesota.

In this post, let’s look more closely at why incidents like this continue to happen not only in Minnesota, but across the country as well.

It is not enough to say that silent raids continue to happen because there has been no comprehensive immigration reform. To be sure, there are still hopes that Congress will pass such reform by the end of the year. But until Congress takes this action, it is necessary to make the current system of verifying employment eligibility work better.

The Chipotle case is a leading example of some of the flaws in the current system that need to be fixed. Three years after the investigation into the company’s hiring practices began, the case remains unresolved. The Securities and Exchange Commission is still looking into allegations that Chipotle misled investors regarding its compliance with work authorization laws.

As we have explained before in this blog, the E-Verify program is hardly a silver bullet solution to the problem of tracking the employment eligibility of immigrants. E-Verify is merely voluntary and it tracks only new hires, not older ones.

In addition, filling out an electronic form does not really get at the integrity of the underlying documents used by employees when applying for jobs. Those documents can still be questioned in a silent raid.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Begins New Crackdown on Hiring Illegal Workers,” Miriam Jordan and Julie Jargon, September 12, 2013

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