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Chipotle restaurants targeted in ICE sweep

In 2009, the Obama administration began placing more of a focus on punishing businesses who hire illegal immigrant workers rather than the illegal workers themselves. The feds threaten these businesses with civil sanctions and criminal charges if it can be proven that they knowingly employed people unauthorized to work in this country.

Within a year, there were criminal charges filed against 180 business owners, managers and other company officials, which was a record number.

One national company whose employment practices have been probed the most is the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle. In fact, on Tuesday, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials visited between 20 and 25 Chipotle stores in several states to question workers about their immigration statuses.

Chipotle has been under investigation by ICE for quite some time. In December, it was reported that 400 Chipotle workers in Minnesota were fired after ICE audited company records, including I-9 forms. These forms are used by all employers to confirm that workers are eligible to work in the country.

In addition, at least 40 workers were fired from Washington, D.C., Chipotle restaurants after ICE conducted audits and documents proving the legal status to work appeared to be falsified.

To work legally in the United States, immigrants need to apply for a work visa. Immigrant visas allow foreign nationals to live and work in the United States and to apply for permanent residency. However, the immigrant visa process demands knowledge of complicated forms and filing requirements, so people often find it helpful to consult with an immigration attorney.

An immigration attorney can also give helpful advice to business owners on achieving business objectives and attaining the right visas for the business owner and their employees. As you can see, the federal government is cracking down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, so make sure your business is safe, or you could face criminal charges.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Chipotle Hiring Probe Expands," Miriam Jordan, 5/4/2011.

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