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Chipotle Grill Fires Illegals Working in Minneapolis

February 8, 2011

Claiming that Chipotle didn’t know the full extent of the force of illegal immigrants working for them would be hard to prove considering the fact that some estimates show that almost half of the Minnesota workforce for Chipotle was allegedly let go following a sweep of illegal immigrant investigations:

And then it has something not going its way — a federal crackdown on its immigrant labor force that has so far forced Chipotle to fire hundreds of allegedly illegal workers in the state of Minnesota, perhaps more than half its staff there.

The probe is widening. Co-Chief Executive Monty Moran told Reuters on Friday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also issued “notices of inspection” for restaurants in Washington D.C. and Virginia.

Investors in the Wall Street darling are taking note and one firm, Calvert Investments, plans to talk to Chipotle about the large number of undocumented workers uncovered.

While Chipotle seems not to suffer long term consequences from investors, customers on news groups are vowing to ban the restaurants from their menus in anger that the company hired so many illegal immigrants.

Comments on the status of illegal aliens  here in the US have been acerbic even on my blog, with some readers saying “it’s a shame” that good workers can’t keep their jobs, and others berating the illegal status of immigrants who want to simply ship money home to Mexico rather than contribute to the already shaky US economy.

It’s a tough problem faced by the restaurant industry, and a tough problem faced by employers here in the States, but one that seems to be garnering little sympathy from an American public angry at the continued loss of jobs and opportunities.

While my readers state that many illegals do pay taxes and are “monitored” through the I-10 form, it seems the Feds are doing raids based on the I-9 form:

Under Obama, immigration enforcement agents are cracking down on employers with so-called “I-9 audits” — I-9 being the employment eligibility verification form.

ICE says that means companies’ hiring practices could be subjected to the same degree of scrutiny as their bookkeeping is by the Internal Revenue Service.

“When you get a big name like Chipotle, it stands out and sends a message,” said Jacqueline Longnecker, president of Reno-based Employment Verification Resources Inc.

“The onus is on employers now … It sends the message that nobody is going to be excused from this,” she said, adding that many companies — both large and small — do not recognize the potential liabilities they now face.

Chipotle believes it has not been singled out.

“ICE has vowed to increase pressure on employers to avoid employing undocumented workers … We are one of a large and growing number of companies to go through this process,” Moran told Reuters by e-mail.

Chipotle is not the only company who will be going through this process, but it is perhaps one of the first large companies to see this sort of sweep.

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