Federal authorities have detained 300 alleged illegal immigrants after raiding the House of Raeford Farms’ Greenville, S.C. chicken processing plant. The bust took place during a 9 a.m. shift change Tuesday, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald.
Federal prosecutors and immigration agents have been investigating the plant’s hiring practices. McDonald says 12 people have been arrested in past months, and seven have pleaded guilty.
McDonald says a recent review of 825 workers’ immigration paperwork showed false information for more than 775.
As a former U.S. Attorney, I can verify that the problem of illegal immigration places employers in a difficult position. Efforts to crack down on workers with forged documents can have the effect of requiring employers in the private sector to assume law enforcement responsibilities they are ill equipped to handle.
Some states, like South Carolina, have enacted high tech verification systems to confirm the identity and employment eligibility of all workers. Such systems are needed to prevent the forgery of official documents, which is apparently common in South Carolina and elsewhere.
However, the devil is in the details. Enforcing employee identification systems is difficult and expensive both for the states and for employers. If the problem of illegal immigration is to be addressed nationally, Congress will need to set uniform standards, close loopholes and provide the states with adequate funding for enforcement.