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June 16, 2006

Case Example
Worksite Enforcement

The Kawasaki Restaurant Investigation

So how does this new approach work differently than the previous enforcement method employed by the INS? Take the Kawasaki restaurant chain in Baltimore as an example…

ICE’s approach in practice:

In March of this year, ICE executed search, arrest and seizure warrants at three Kawasaki Restaurants - a small Japanese restaurant chain - and at four related residences where we encountered fifteen undocumented workers living in deplorable conditions. Benefiting from their illegal workforce, the owners of the restaurants had created a lavish lifestyle for themselves. Fortunately, the three business owners were criminally arrested for money laundering and harboring of illegal aliens.

  • ICE seized assets including eight luxury vehicles, ten bank accounts and three safety deposit boxes and cash found during the residence and business searches.

  • The owners have since pleaded guilty to these felony charges and agreed to forfeit approximately $1.1 million in assets.

The old approach:

How would this case have been handled differently prior to ICE’s new approach?

Historically, INS agents would have used administrative tools. They would have likely conducted an I-9 inspection at the Kawasaki Restaurants to determine whether the employer was in compliance with IRCA. Following the inspection, the issuance of a fine based on paperwork violations would have likely been the end result.

  • The owners would likely escape even a misdemeanor charge.

  • The maximum fine would have been approximately $20,000, -- and in many cases, such a fine would be negotiated down even further, often down to half of the original penalty.

Under the old way of doing business:

With such a paltry end result, it is not surprising that the old employer sanction regime had become simply a “cost of doing business”.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is comprised of five integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.

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