Another good article by Ruben Navarrette.
Republican National Hispanic Assembly
Washington State Chairman
Hiring of illegal immigrants is rife but no one is responsible
When a federal jury in Chattanooga, Tenn., acquitted Tyson Foods of smuggling illegal immigrants, it sent a message: When the government goes after an employer for allegedly hiring illegal immigrants, it had better have its ducks in a row. And if it doesn't, employers can feel free to hire at will.
The government claims it did its homework. The Justice Department poured 2 1/2 years and millions of dollars into what was initially a 36-count indictment filed in December 2001. The judge disagreed and trimmed the indictment to 24 counts, tossing out allegations that the company had directly smuggled undocumented immigrants into the United States.
What was left sounded pretty convincing. Relying on undercover agents, wiretaps and video surveillance of Tyson plants, the government alleged that the $20 billion-a-year company with the annual worker turnover rate of 75 percent was so eager to hire illegal immigrants that managers had conspired to do so. Prosecutors alleged that Tyson had even tapped the services of a smuggling outfit. Yet the jury's forewoman told reporters after the verdict that the government did not present sufficient evidence to prove its case.
Apparently, the jury didn't put much stock in the government's accusation that a human resources manager at Tyson once allegedly warned other managers to never admit to hiring illegal immigrants. Nor did it think much of the allegation that a former vice president once diagnosed the troubles of a struggling plant in Shelbyville, Tenn., by insisting: "That plant needs more Mexicans." Nor did the jury believe the witnesses, including former Tyson managers who claimed that the company fostered an environment that encouraged the hiring of illegal immigrants and that higher-ups knew full well what was going on.
The government crashed and burned on all counts. It took jurors less than six hours to find Tyson not guilty.
As onlookers dissect the verdict, some will say the fault lies with prosecutors who didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the hiring of illegal immigrants (which no one denied occurred) was driven by a corporate culture and not by "rogue managers," as Tyson insisted.
Others will insist that Tyson's lawyers succeeded in driving home their claim that the government entrapped the Tyson managers by making it far too easy for them to hire illegal immigrants.
Others will call this a malicious prosecution and take Tyson officials at their word that the company tries to ensure those it hires are here legally. They may even point to the fact that the company volunteered to participate in a computerized identification checking system created by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
For whatever reason, the jury apparently wasn't intent on doling out any sort of punishment for the one crime that was undisputed the hiring of illegal immigrants by former Tyson managers. Or maybe jurors were simply willing to accept Tyson's insistence that the company bigwigs knew nothing about the hiring and so therefore could not be held criminally liable for it.
The part about not knowing I find difficult to believe. The top brass at Tyson must have known what was going on right under their noses or at least what goes on, every day, in the rest of the country. Americans continually prove the law of supply and demand by hungering for illegal immigrants, and then ignore the rule of law by turning a blind eye to those who hire them.
Growing up in California's rural San Joaquin Valley, and later living in cities in the Southwest like Los Angeles, Phoenix and now Dallas all places with big populations of illegal immigrants I have seen firsthand just how dependent Americans have become on cheap immigrant labor and how little care many of them give to making sure that those they hire are here legally. I have heard people insist that the United States has lost control of its borders, and then pin the blame on the immigrants themselves and never on those who lured them here in the first place with the promise of gainful employment.
Who are we kidding? Sure there is a law on the books making it a crime to knowingly put illegal immigrants to work. But it is not a law that most Americans take seriously. And until they do, it is difficult to take seriously demands for tighter control of our nation's borders.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. is an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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