ICE targets 5 local businesses looking for improperly documented workers

Wednesday, February 7, 2018
ICE targets 5 local businesses looking for improperly documented workers
Dozens if not hundreds of workers have stayed away, because of fears their papers may not be in order.

FRESNO, Calif . -- At least five Valley fruit packing houses have been tagged by immigration agents, who are auditing the work papers filed by employees.

They are looking for flaws in the so-called I-9 forms that indicate immigration status. It created a panic among workers.

"She's afraid she doesn't have the papers she needs to continue working," said translator.

The woman who did not want to be identified has worked at one of the packing houses for 10 years. Her husband also works there. They have lived in the Central Valley for nearly 30 years, but the fact their documents are now in the hands of federal auditors have their families worried.

"The children are very concerned. They don't know what's going to happen," said translator.

Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League has heard from packing houses, industrial plants and restaurants being audited. He believes hundreds of employees are impacted and are staying away from work for fear of being picked up and deported.

"Maybe the mom won't be going home tonight because she's undocumented because she presented documents that looked good to businesses," said Cunha.

The audits come at the start of the harvest season and Immigrant Rights Activist Stan Santos says the audits are seen as a threat to many valley businesses.

"There will be a ripple effect through the community because once its clear ice is taking this type of action they don't know where they will appear next," said Santos.

In a written release a spokesman for ICE said the goal of the audits is to protect American jobs.

Cunha says the reality is the Central Valley relies on immigrant labor. Many are undocumented. He believes the only solution is Immigration Reform. He and others are pressing the president and local members of Congress to act.

"I don't care about the Russian deal. I could care less about that. I want Devin Nunes to focus on what is happening today in our Valley," said Cunha.

What is happening is people are afraid, trying to figure out what to do if they can no longer work and provide for their families.

"Well, it will be huge, because if we decide not to go back to work, what will we live on, and where are we going to go," said translator.