McDonald’s franchisee is fined for immigration violation

Reno, Nev.-based McDonald's franchisee Mack Associates has pleaded guilty to supplying illegal workers with false identification and agreed to pay a $1 million fine, according to The Wall Street Journal. It is the first conviction involving a major restaurant chain franchisee.

The U.S. District Court case follows a work-site raid in March 2007 that led to the arrest of 58 immigrant workers at 11 McDonald's outlets in Reno. A plea agreement details how management for Mack Associates knowingly employed illegal immigrants by giving them names and Social Security numbers that belonged to U.S. citizens or legal residents.

Mack Associates was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to immediately pay $300,000 of the fine. Although the company's owner, Luther Mack, was not charged, Director of Operations Joe Gillespie and Former Vice President Jimmy Moore could face a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to the felony of inducing an illegal immigrant to reside in the U.S.

McDonald's Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., has said the case "was an isolated incident and not part of any ongoing investigation into McDonald's USA." An attorney for Mack Associates has said steps have been taken to prevent the violations from occurring again.

The case reflects the increased work-site enforcement employed by the Bush administration after comprehensive immigration reform failed in Congress. During fiscal year 2007, more than 4,000 arrests—10 times the amount in 2002—were made for administrative immigration violations at factories and plants. Between October 2007 and July 11, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had made more than 3,500 arrests. In April, 58 percent of all federal prosecutions were immigration cases.

Despite the increased enforcement, federal authorities have been criticized for not prosecuting people in management positions at raided businesses. So the results of the Mack Associates case are satisfying some of those critics.

"Finally, ICE is going after employers intentionally breaking the law," says Charles Kuck, an attorney who is president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "This is a substantial fine for a company this size, much greater than possibly any other in terms of impact on the company’s bottom line."

Since the March 2007 raid in Reno, about 30 of the 58 arrested illegal workers have been returned to their native countries.

Date : 7/22/2008