In August this year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided a trailer manufacturing plant in Tigertown, Texas, in what would launch a series of immigration enforcement operations against employers that knowingly hire immigrants without work authorization.
Load Trail LLC CEO Kevin Hiebert describes the raid – which occurred on the morning of August 28 at the Load Trail plant two hours northeast of Dallas – as looking like something out of a movie, involving a helicopter and 300 armed ICE agents. The agency took more than 150 Load Trail employees into custody, booked them for working in the country without authorization, and proceeded with a criminal investigation of the company that hired them.
Load Trail, however, was only the first of several similar encounters that ensued shortly after. In this year alone, ICE agents have raided a number of 7-Eleven stores, dairy and vegetable farms, a feedlot, and a meatpacking plant.
“Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses. In addition, they take jobs away from US citizens and legal residents,” said Katrina Berger, an agent overseeing Homeland Security Investigations in the Dallas ICE office.
But Hiebert disagrees, saying that the manufacturing industry in Texas, or any kind of steel fabrication construction for that matter, depends on immigrant workers for survival, as no one else wants these jobs. The owner of a competing trailer manufacturer, who requested to be anonymous, agreed with Hiebert, adding that all competing trailer manufacturers in the area also regularly hire undocumented immigrants to meet demand.
As such, ICE has begun looking through the employee records of every trailer manufacturer in the area, picking out those they suspect of using fake identity documents. A number of unauthorized employees, overwhelmed by the situation, have ceased going to work out of fear of being arrested and subsequently deported.
This is not the first time Load Trail has gotten into trouble for employing undocumented immigrants. In 2014, the company was fined to the tune of $445,000 for hiring hundreds of undocumented workers. Hiebert admits that careful screening of applicants is not part of Load Trail’s employment policies, adding that the company hires whoever comes to them looking for work and pays them appropriate wage.
Several industries in the US depend on the employment of foreign workers, with many companies expressing concerns over a potential labor shortage if immigrants are prevented from coming over and doing work that Americans avoid—manual labor, such as the kind done in Load Trail, being one.
The win-win solution is comprehensive immigration reform, but in an administration that has so far refused to back down on its aggressive immigration stance, any legislation on the matter is so far dead in the water. In the meantime, manufacturing businesses in Tigertown like Load Trail, which needs seasonal welders, may have to relocate to Mexico to stay afloat.
For more updates on this immigration issue, be sure to follow this blog. If you are a business owner seeking assistance to legally hire migrant workers, or are someone wishing to apply for a visa, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle to discuss your options.