Oklahoma-based agri-business agrees to $1 million civil settlement
OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma-based agri-business on Thursday agreed to a $1 million civil settlement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the State of Oklahoma’s Office of the Attorney General.
This case was investigated by special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Investigations.
Seaboard Corporation, which operates a pork production plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, through its subsidiary Seaboard Foods L.L.C., agreed on Nov. 1, 2018, to pay a total of $1,006,000. The settlement follows an investigation into allegations that the Guymon plant hired and employed unauthorized workers with respect to the time period 2007-2012 and failed to properly complete employment eligibility forms. Additionally, the investigation looked into allegations that healthcare claims for certain Seaboard employees, who were enrolled in a private health insurance plan provided by Seaboard, were improperly submitted to the Oklahoma Medicaid Program with respect to the same time period, 2007-2012.
The settlement agreement requires Seaboard to pay $750,000 to ICE and $256,000 to the State of Oklahoma’s Office of the Attorney General. This agreement was largely predicated upon Seaboard’s cooperation during the investigation, and on compliance measures taken by Seaboard prior to and during the course of this investigation.
Employer Hiring Requirements
Under federal law, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals they hire, and to document that information using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. A notice of inspection alerts business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law. Employers are required to produce their company’s I-9s within three business days, after which ICE will conduct an inspection for compliance. If employers are not in compliance with the law, an I-9 inspection of their business will likely result in civil fines and could lay the groundwork for criminal prosecution, if they are knowingly violating the law.
In fiscal year 2017, ICE conducted 1,360 I-9 audits and made 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests. Businesses were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeiture, fines and restitution and $7.8 million in civil fines, including one company whose financial penalties represented the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.
HSI uses a three-prong approach to conduct worksite enforcement: compliance through I-9 inspections and civil fines; enforcement through the criminal arrest of employers and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and outreach through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.
By volunteering to participate in the IMAGE program, companies can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. As part of IMAGE, ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. Businesses can request more information about participating here.
Federal law established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of all individuals they hire. ICE is the federal agency responsible for enforcing these laws, which were set up to protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, and to eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce. ICE’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor, and other illegal practices.