Hiring illegal workers

Matt Wagner, SBJ ReporterGov. Matt Blunt is taking aim at “unscrupulous employers” who illegally employ undocumented workers in Missouri, according to a news release issued by his office.

While in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Blunt signed a memorandum of agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to create the Gateway Task Force, a group of federal and state law enforcement officials who will target crime and problems associated with illegal immigration.

Harboring and transporting illegal immigrants, forced labor, human trafficking, identity theft, document fraud and bulk cash smuggling are priorities for the task force, which includes ICE agents and specially trained members of the Missouri Highway Patrol, according to the release.

Under the agreement, 18 ICE-trained state troopers will work out of local ICE offices in Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis. Troopers, who will be able to perform certain customs officers functions under ICE supervision, will share information with ICE agents to more efficiently police illegal immigration and related crimes.

Blunt recently signed legislation that requires all public employers and state contractors to use E-Verify, an Internet-based system, to check immigration status of new employees.

In early 2007, the governor ordered an audit of all state contractors to ensure that contracted employees are legally eligible to work in the United States and directed agencies to terminate contracts with companies that knowingly employed illegal immigrants.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson told SBJ that the state has only severed its contracts with one company since performing the audit. The company was Oklahoma-based Sam’s Janitorial Services, the outfit that led to Blunt’s crackdown. Sam’s was contracted to clean nine state buildings in Jefferson City.

Blunt ended the state’s contractual relationship with Sam’s after local and federal law enforcement agents arrested 22 of its employees, seven of whom were immediately deported. In October 2007, Sam’s sued the state, alleging breach of contract and racial discrimination. The case is still pending in Cole County Circuit Court.

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