November 5, 2014 - Chicago-area company fined more than $300,000 for hiring illegal workers (Company is a repeat Form I-9 offender; more than 90 percent of its workers were unauthorized)

CHICAGO — A Chicago-area company has been fined more than $300,000 for hiring violations, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

This is the second time the company, Durable Inc., has been fined for failing to comply with laws prohibiting the hiring of illegal workers.

Durable Inc., located in Wheeling, Illinois, manufactures aluminum products for retail and food-service customers.

An HSI investigation determined that 92 percent of Durable Inc.'s employees, or 604 workers, were unauthorized to work in the United States. This investigation revealed severe deficiencies with the company's employment records, including failing to verify their employees' identities and eligibility to work in the United States. These employees were subsequently terminated by Durable Inc.

Following the investigation, HSI instituted a civil penalty of $329,895 against Durable Inc. for 300 paperwork violations that led to employing illegal workers. This penalty was aggravated due to the fact that Durable Inc. was previously fined $30,000 for hiring illegal workers and agreed at that time to cease and desist from any further violations.  The company also failed to institute any new procedures, training, or take any measurable steps to comply with the law.

In September, an administrative law judge with the Department of Justice's Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) ordered Durable Inc. to pay 100 percent of the fine imposed by HSI. The company appealed this decision.  However, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) affirmed the judge's decision Oct. 23.

In her decision, Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Robin M. Stutman stated: "The very purpose of the employment eligibility verification requirements is to ensure that employers verify and certify the identity and employment authorization of every new hire in order to prevent the hiring of unauthorized workers. In this, Durable failed to properly verify and certify its employees' employment eligibility and ninety percent of its workforce was found to be comprised of unauthorized workers."

Attorneys from ICE's Office of the Chief Counsel prosecuted this case before OCAHO. "The Office of the Chief Counsel will continue to prosecute companies who violate our immigration and employment laws, and pursue the maximum monetary fine for egregious violators who disregard their legal obligations and employ unauthorized workers." said ICE Chief Counsel Karen Lundgren in Chicago.

Links to OCAHO decisions:

"HSI will continue to focus our attention on employers who knowingly employ illegal workers and flaunt our nation's immigration laws," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "This significant fine should serve as a warning to employers that they will be punished if they seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce."

The investigation of Durable Inc. is part of HSI's worksite enforcement strategy that launched in 2009 to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce. This strategy focuses agency resources on the investigation and inspection of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by hiring unauthorized workers.

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