A Washington State apple orchard has been given a hefty fine following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit which revealed hundreds of workers had been employed without proper eligibility.
The ICE reached a multimillion dollar settlement with Prescott-based Broetje Orchards for its civil violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act related to verifying U.S. employment acceptability.
A release from ICE says the orchard will pay US$2.25 million in civil penalties.
“This will remedy Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form 1-9) issues uncovered during an administrative audit by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI),” it says.
“The latest audit conducted last summer revealed that nearly 950 of the company’s employees were suspected of not being authorized to work in the United States.
“All businesses are expected to comply with the law and to ensure the information provided on Form 1-9 is accurate,” says ICE director Sarah R. Saldana.
Under the settlement agreement, Broetje Orchards does not admit to any criminal wrongdoing, but does acknowledge HSI auditors found that it continued to employ unauthorized workers after being advised by ICE those employees did not have permission to work in the U.S.
The agreement also calls for the company to pay a lump sum fine to ICE, which, once paid in full, will release the firm from any further civil or criminal liability associated with conduct alleged by HSI to date.
ICE’s chief counsel in Seattle says the ICE weighs up various factors when considering the details of an appropriate penalty, including the interests of the local community and its economy.
“We believe this is a reasonable conclusion that holds this business accountable, but does not cripple its ability to provide jobs to lawful workers,” he says in the release.
Attorneys with ICE’s office of principal legal advisors negotiated the settlement on behalf of the U.S. government.
“We are pleased to put this process behind us and to get back to the business of growing fruit,” Broetje Orchards said in the statement.
“This case nevertheless highlights what is clearly a dysfunctional and broken immigration system.
“We urge our industry, and our state’s congressional delegation, to take the lead to support and pass immigration reform legislation. The agricultural labor shortage needs to be fixed, and now.”
Photo: Opal apple Facebook page