Regarding the March 9, Page 4 story ``INS raids two Chicago molders,'' Sun Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder, found out the hard way about illegal workers. In the suburbs of Chicago there is an abundance of Spanish-speaking people willing to work and be trained for responsible positions. Taking advantage of the labor force can be trouble for any company that doesn't take steps to ensure documentation presented by potential employees is legal.
There are a number of tricks used by illegal immigrants to obtain jobs, such as using the identification of a friend or relative that is legal or buying illegal documentation that is impossible to detect as fraudulent.
In the case of Sun Plastics, copies of all documents and identification were meticulously kept in each employee's file to protect the company from any potential problems. In mid-December 1997 we were visited by the Immigration and Naturalization Service requesting copies of all the employee records. Immigration officials told us they would investigate each employee for their legal status and would get back to us with the results.
At the end of February we were contacted by Immigration and told they were going to make a raid the following day.
It is illegal for an employer to warn any employee of an investigation or a pending raid. The penalties are severe for any company breaking the law. The subsequent raid netted the INS a number of illegal immigrants, surprisingly some employees that had worked for the company for nine years.
The experience is very traumatic indeed. INS arrives like a SWAT team, surrounding the premises, and is equipped with sidearms and handcuffs. It appeared as a hunt for America's most-wanted rather than a search for illegal immigrants — in a few cases agents were overabusive to very traumatized workers. One agent in particular thought she was herding cattle instead of human beings.
Now, for the positive side of this experience, and there is one. All the local publicity by the news media brought literally hundreds of applicants the following day to fill the vacant positions. Within several days after the raid we were able to fill most positions, therefore this interruption had no impact on deliveries or quality to our customers.
Sun Plastics personnel manager Tish Clark was totally overwhelmed by the throngs of applicants.
She is still processing the hundreds of applications submitted.
One of the services provided and required by INS after an investigation is verification of legal status for all new employees.
INS, in conjunction with the Social Security Administration, has established a pilot program whereby a company can verify documentation directly with the agency by computer and modem. The process can take as little as three minutes. This program is only available in Illinois, New York, Florida, Texas, and California and will be in a development stage for approximately four years before being available nationwide. For information, call INS in Washington at (202) 514-2317.
Sun Plastics has adopted this program in an all-out effort to prevent any problems in the future.
It is important to note that no fines were levied by INS because of the accurate files and cooperation provided by Sun Plastics in the INS investigation.
George J. Gemberling
Sun Plastics Inc.
Elk Grove Village, Ill.