like coming to work early in the morning and watching one of your key
employees being led away in handcuffs.
want to tell me whatís going on here?" I asked last week as my
warehouse manager was being escorted into a waiting car by two
official-looking men in plainclothes.
My warehouse manager just shook his
head, embarrassed and more than a little frightened.
An office assistant, who had watched
the proceedings from the beginning, let me in on the intrigue.
"Theyíre from the Department of
Justice, Immigration Division," she said, handing me a letter.
"I think weíre being raided or something."
The letter explained everything. It
stated my warehouse manager was being arrested on suspicion of being an
illegal alien not authorized to work in this country. Furthermore, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service would be conducting an audit on the
legality of all my employees the following week.
Was it something I said?
In 14 years of running my own
business, Iíve had virtually no government interference. But in the last
month Iíve suffered through an audit from the Department of Labor, and
now the Department of Justice. Before it gets any further, Iíd like to
announce to the Department of Interior that I categorically deny seeing
any spotted owls near my business.
While I had some problems
understanding the reasoning of some of the regulations enforced by the
Department of Labor, I have no such qualms about the Department of
Justice, thereby proving that I know when I should shut up.
Two hours after my warehouse manager
was led away in handcuffs, he called to further explain what happened. He
was indeed in the country illegally and had been since he began working
for me six years ago. All his papers were forged.
Someone had apparently turned him in.
No one at work had any idea he was illegal, except his longtime girlfriend
whom he was planning to marry the following year. Once blissfully wed, he
would become legal. Sighing, he said he may have to move the wedding date
up a bit. It was a decision no man should have to make Ė get married
four months sooner than expected or get thrown out of the country. I think
in the first few months he was leaning toward deportation.
He posted $2,000 bail and was out of
jail later that day. But under no circumstances could he come back to
work. So I was without a warehouse manager and faced with another
All of our 50 employees had filled out
I-9 forms from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) when they
were hired and we documented their proof of ability to work in this
But I wasnít totally surprised when we announced the
INS was about to conduct an investigation and immediately three employees
had family emergencies that required their presence far away from here.
They were gone, and not about to return.
The INS came and took our payroll records and I-9 forms
and sent them to the Social Security Administration to verify the legality
of the Social Security numbers. The results should be back in a few weeks.
Questionable employees will then be interviewed by the INS to determine if
they are indeed authorized to work.
As an employer, Iíve done
everything I can. If we have any more illegals, itís because their
forgeries are good ones. My warehouse manager is as American as apple pie.
I would never have suspected. Now my fear is that Iíll come to work one
morning and see a long chain of handcuffed employees trudging toward a
prison bus, leaving me and two grammar-school friends to run the company.
Meanwhile, my warehouse manager
continues his efforts to obtain a work authorization and avoid deportation
without having to get married before heís ready.
And apparently he has a chance. Because
he has been in the country almost seven years and has been an upstanding
citizen, paying taxes and avoiding jail, the INS may let him stay and give
him an authorization to work.
While this policy seems to reward those
illegal immigrants who can avoid detention, it is music to the ears of my
The "verdict" could come in
the mail any day. And since he lives with his girlfriend, the ugly rumor
around our company is his fate will be determined by who sees the mail