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American Meat Institute Says Immigrations Customs Enforcement Action Against Swift & Company Illustrates Hiring Challenge Faced By Many Industries

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
 

Washington, D.C. – “The actions taken yesterday against Swift & Company illustrate a fundamental dilemma faced by employers nationwide: verifying employment in a manner that ensures that employees are eligible to work in the United States, while also protecting the civil rights of foreign-born people.

Like all industries, the U.S. meat industry benefits from a legal and stable workforce. Historically, our industry has attracted foreign-born workers because we pay, on average, nearly $25,000 a year plus benefits for jobs that require no formal training or prior experience.

When hiring, meat industry employers scrutinize documents presented to them by an applicant to make sure they appear to be legitimate, but this presents a fundamental ‘Catch-22.’ If an employer accepts documents as legitimate that turn out to be fraudulent, they may face federal penalties. If an employer questions documents that are legitimate, the employer can face civil rights charges. Over the last decade, we have seen instances in which companies have been penalized in one state for immigration violations and in another for civil rights violations when the same corporate hiring policies and practices are in place.

That is why the meat industry embraced the Basic Pilot on-line verification system when it became available in a handful of states in 1997. The industry strongly supported the reauthorization of the program and the extension of it nationwide in December 2004. Immediately after hiring employees, employers can use the Basic Pilot to verify that the social security number presented by an applicant matches the name provided. This verification system helps to identify workers who are presenting fraudulent information. Unfortunately, the system does not determine if that name and social security number are being used by other individuals in multiple locations nationwide.

That is why AMI was disappointed by Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform to help resolve this fundamental hiring dilemma by giving us more tools to verify eligibility to work. Our industry has a demonstrated record of cooperation with federal officials in efforts to ensure that our workers are all eligible to work in the U.S. We have availed ourselves of the tools available to us and fought for their full funding. Hopefully, the news surrounding the action will help inspire Congress to take the action that is so badly needed to prevent future disruptions to businesses and families.”

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For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
202-587-4243
dray@meatinstitute.org
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Aff
202-587-4245
jriley@meatinstitute.org

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