Local Companies Hit with Immigration Audits

At least 2,000 people in the Twin Cities have reportedly lost their jobs in the last 18 months following immigration audits-a statistic indicative of a national crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Local companies are facing increased pressure from immigration audits-a trend that has led to the firing of thousands of local workers, according to a report by the Star Tribune.

At least nine businesses in the Twin Cities are currently undergoing audits as part of the Obama administration's effort to penalize employers using undocumented workers, according to the newspaper.

Oakdale-based ROC Commercial Cleaning, for example, learned that its employment records are being reviewed by the federal government. Although the company hasn't yet fired any employees, some janitors have already quit, and one employee reportedly said that nearly the entire 129-person work force could lose their jobs.

At least 2,000 people in the Twin Cities who were unable to prove their eligibility to work in the United States have reportedly lost their jobs during the last 18 months.

For example, earlier this month, 240 employees were fired from Harvard Maintenance following an immigration audit. That represents about half of the New York-based company's Twin Cities work force.

And last month, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., revealed that it fired 450 Minnesota employees last year after being audited by the Department of Homeland Security.

The audits, conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, increased more than 50 percent in 2010 to roughly 2,200. The Star Tribune reports that more than 300 local businesses, most of which employ physical laborers, have been audited and fined for violations since 2003. No local employers have been arrested, but four have been fined, including ABM Industries, Inc., which fired about 1,200 Twin Cities janitors in 2009 and was fined about $108,000.

Critics describe the recent crackdown-particularly the fines-as too lenient. Others argue that the solution is a more efficient method for registering undocumented workers to allow them to work legally.

Some local groups, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 in St. Paul, describe the firings as an attack on immigrants. The group on Sunday held a vigil in Minneapolis to support the hundreds of local workers who have lost their jobs, the Star Tribune reported.