An impostor on the payroll

    Thereís nothing like coming to work early in the morning and watching one of your key employees being led away in handcuffs.
   "Someone 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 impending audit.
   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 country.
    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 warehouse manager.
   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 first.


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