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Chipotle restaurants face increased I-9 scrutiny

The Obama Administration has made it clear that it intends to increase its crackdown on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. A recent audit of Chipotle restaurants in a Midwestern state resulted in the company firing a massive number of employees. Following the mass-firing, protests erupted around the country, including here in Florida, over the "silent raids."

The recent mass firing occurred in Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota after investors with the U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) found evidence of potential I-9 compliance issues. Most ICE audits have focused on smaller employers in the past. This blog recently reported the Obama Administration has created a new office to bump up its I-9 audit enforcement practices.

Chipotle is one of the larger companies to draw ICE scrutiny related to I-9 documentation issues. The recent events in Minnesota reportedly are now expanding to other Chipotle restaurants in other states.

The ICE probe of the Chipotle restaurant chain reportedly is now being expanded to restaurants in the nation's capital and in Virginia.

A spokesman for the restaurant chain says the company does more than the law requires to ensure its work force is legal. The company has a policy of reviewing two documents for each hired individual, according to a company spokesman. Nonetheless, ICE continues to probe the company's work force records looking for discrepancies in the company's I-9 documentation.

Hundreds of employees were fired in the Minnesota probe, where the restaurant chain has roughly 509 restaurants. The current expansion into the Washington D.C. and Virginia markets reportedly may affect some 60 restaurants. The company may have to engage in another round of firings if the current probe turns up evidence of I-9 fraud.

Source: New York Daily News, "Chipotle under fire for hiring illegal immigrants; chain fires hundreds after customs crackdown," Philip Caulfield 8 Feb 2011

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