Fired Illegals Say Chipotle Was Soft on Immigration

By Jon Feere on April 14, 2011

Reuters has written an expose on the illegal hiring practices at Chipotle, the fast-food burrito chain that continues to be the focus of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement audit. The article is worth reading in full, as it generally avoids the frivolity found in most immigration reporting. Shockingly, the journalists admit: "Chipotle could have found anomalies had it used E-Verify." Here is part of the article:

The hundreds of illegal immigrants recently fired from fast-growing burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc had a pretty good run when it came to job security.

Not only did some get jobs with fake Social Security numbers and few questions about their immigration status, in some cases they actually told managers point-blank their papers were no good. And they often stayed on for years.
. . .
The 26,500-strong company says it takes the audits, the outcomes and the law very seriously. But Reuters has interviewed eight former employees, most of whom speak fondly of their time at the company, who say Chipotle's management ignored signs that called workers' immigration status into question.
. . .
Miguel Bravo, a 29-year-old from El Salvador, was fired [after a recent ICE audit in Washington, D.C.] and he says Chipotle has dismissed about 70 workers in the capital, where the chain has eight restaurants.

"They don't have a modern system to verify documents… They didn't confront me at any moment, or ask me if my papers were good or if I was authorized to work legally in the United States," said Bravo, who joined Chipotle in 2009 — the year the company's annual report disclosed it had "been subject to audits by immigration authorities from time to time."

A former supervisor who asked to be called Ramirez, a surname, was hired in 2006 — after Chipotle's own computer system kicked back the first Social Security number he presented because a different employee already had used it. He bought a new Social Security card and used it to get a job.

Given the terminations in Minnesota and Washington, Reuters asked the company why it has not yet adopted E-Verify, the verification system recommended but not required by ICE, in all of its markets. The company did not respond to the question.

One answer the fired workers and union leaders offer is that hiring illegal immigrants was good for business because it lowered labor costs.

"They know we're hard workers and that we are going to do the job the way they want, so they will keep it quiet," said Jose, 45, an undocumented Minnesota worker who was fired after nearly five years at Chipotle. He asked not to be identified because he has a job at another restaurant.

With the support of open-border attorney groups and some members of the D.C. city council, the fired illegal aliens have sent a letter to Chipotle's headquarters "demanding" a public apology and two weeks of pay, among other things. Videos of those making the demands are available online.

One wonders how many stolen identities can be attributed to Chipotle's hiring practices. How can D.C.'s city council members do nothing to prevent illegal employment while overseeing a city with unemployment rates reaching 25 percent? The city council members should consider mandating E-Verify within the District in order to avoid similar situations in the future.

Topics: E-Verify