When A Business is Raided / by Maria Hinojosa | December 13, 2013

When A Business is Raided

For some Republicans, the push for immigration reform is about the bottom line and their employees’ welfare. Maria Hinojosa talks to conservative commentator Linda Chavez about ICE raiding her business.

(Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP)

FYR_LindaChavez_t700Linda Chavez is president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, based in Washington, D.C., and a FOX News Channel contributor.

We honor civility here at Latino USA. Keep your comments constructive and respectful of everyone's opinions.
Thank you.

I was pleased to hear Linda Chavez’s remarks about immigration policy and the lack of workers on this week’s show. We are a small family farm in Central Texas, and had a similar experience. For many years we used the Dept. of Labor’s H2A guestworker program for six employees from Mexico because we cannot hire anyone locally for farm work. We had an exemplary record of working with the program for 10 years, but in 2010 we were subjected to a wage and hour investigation. We felt very much like it was a raid. We were not told in advance of their visit, we were questioned for hours without a chance for a break, and at one point we were falsely accused point blank of extorting thousands of dollars for visas from our six H2A workers because the DOL investigators didn’t know the US Government fees of the programs and failed to account for the exchange rate of pesos to dollars. They investigated us for 5 months, preventing us from re-applying for the H2A program during the investigation. In the end we were found to be in “Full compliance with all Fair Labor Standards Act rules and regulations” but because of a clerical misunderstanding we were told we had to pay over $13,000 in back wages for two US employees, even though the DOL agreed we had terminated them for cause, When we tried to ask why they made this decision, the DOL replied that they didn’t have to disclose this information, and that we could file a freedom of information act to possibly see our record after we paid. When we tried to enlist our congressman and a lawyer for help sorting it out, we were told by the DOL that if were persisted “Their solicitors would push for further penalties and litigation.” The end result is that we no longer use the H2A program, we have downsized our business to a fraction of what it was (We had 12 US and 6 H2A employees in 2010), and we have eliminated the positions of our US workers that were supported by the work done by our H2A workers. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars were taken out of the local economy by our inability to get visas for our workers.

We have always hired legal workers, and the H2A program made it possible for us to farm, but we have now scaled back to just my wife and myself with one part-time employee. We need a workable agricultural guestworker program for our farm to grow and hire more US workers.