Immigration Roundup: San Diego Bakery Fined Nearly $400,000 for Hiring Undocumented Workers

Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to focus on worksite investigations targeting companies and managers, instead of focusing only on undocumented workers.

A San Diego-area bakery, its owner, and manager were each sentenced in federal court Dec. 22 on charges stemming from a four-year probe by Immigration and Customs Enforcement into hiring undocumented workers.

The French Gourmet Inc., a La Jolla, Calif., restaurant and bakery, was ordered to forfeit $109,200 in illicit proceeds and to pay $277,375 for employing more than 10 undocumented workers in a 12-month period, ICE said.

The company owner and president Michel Malecot was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty earlier this year to knowingly employing illegal aliens. Richard Kauffmann, the bakery's manager who also pleaded guilty in October to hiring undocumented workers, was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and fined $2,500, ICE said.

According to ICE, The French Gourmet has a long history of hiring undocumented workers. The current charges stem from unauthorized hiring between 2005 and 2008, but the defendants admitted to hiring and employing illegal aliens as early as 2003, ICE said.

“This worksite investigation demonstrates our intent to hold businesses accountable when they repeatedly ignore immigration laws,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE's Homeland Security Investigations office in San Diego.

In Other Developments:

The number of U.S. residents who are of limited English proficiency has increased significantly in recent decades, in line with the growth of the U.S. foreign-born population, according to a report issued by the Migration Policy Institute. Though LEP individuals remain concentrated in the six traditional immigrant-destination states­--California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois--a substantial number are now settling in the northwestern, southeastern, and southwestern parts of the country.

The AFL-CIO released a report about the “humanitarian crisis” in Alabama that has resulted from the state’s controversial immigration law, H.B. 56. The report outlines the findings of a delegation of African American labor leaders who traveled to Alabama in November. According to William Lucy, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, “the parallels to Jim Crow were all too real, and the prejudice we heard about felt all too familiar.”

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis also condemned the Alabama law through a DOL blog post. “Alabama’s law invalidates employment contracts for undocumented workers who are guaranteed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a result, unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of Alabama’s immigration law to deny workers the wages they have earned and, under federal law, continue to be legally owed,” she wrote.