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Restaurant Owner Fined $400,000 For Employing Undocumented Workers

Aired 12/23/11 on KPBS News.

The owner of a popular San Diego restaurant and catering business is the latest employer to be sentenced for hiring undocumented workers.

Michel Malecót, owner of The French Gourmet restaurant and catering business, was sentenced Thursday to five years probation, and fined $400,000 for knowingly employing undocumented workers.

Malecót's bakery manager, Richard Kauffmann, was sentenced to three years probation, and fined $2,500.

Michel Malecót, owner of The French Gourmet, was fined $400,000 on December 2...
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Above: Michel Malecót, owner of The French Gourmet, was fined $400,000 on December 22 for knowingly employing undocumented workers.

The case is the most recent in a growing number of convictions against employers for violating federal immigration law. Convictions and fines have risen dramatically since the start of the Obama administration.

Malecót's cozy, 14-table restaurant sits just blocks from the ocean in Pacific Beach. Most of his business comes from catering, which he runs out of an expansive kitchen in the back.

Malecót, a French native, almost lost the business because of a four-year investigation into his hiring of dozens of undocumented immigrant workers over a four-year period. Malecót pleaded guilty in October.

His lawyer, Eugene Iredale, said it was his client’s big heart that got him into trouble.

“Because people who had been working for him for four or five or six years, whom he then found out were not authorized to work, he couldn’t bear to pull the trigger,” Iredale said.

Iredale concedes that’s no excuse for breaking the law, but said the government could have picked a better target to exemplify egregious violation of workplace immigration law.

He said Malecót was "not an example of an employer who deliberately violates the laws in order to exploit the vulnerable situation of undocumented workers in order to gain an unfair advantage over his competitors.”

Judge Thomas Whelan, who presided over the case, said it appeared Malecót had not exploited his workers.

Still, Federal immigration authorities do hope Malecót’s case will serve as an example.

“These criminal prosecutions really send a message to that employment sector that if you’re breaking the law, we will find you and there will be repercussions,” said Michael Carney, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.

It’s part of a shift in the government’s work site immigration enforcement strategy. Following a string of dramatic workplace raids during the latter years of the Bush administration, the Obama administration announced in April 2009 that it was changing its focus to target employers of undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves.

Since then, the number of employers convicted has more than doubled — 193 of them in 2011. And they paid more than 6 million dollars in fines.

At the same time, arrests of workers were down more than 70 percent this year compared to the last year of the Bush administration.

Business leaders agree focusing on employers sends a message.

“It’s been effective," said Daniel Conway, legislative and public affairs director for the California Restaurant Association.

Still, Conway says his group supports comprehensive immigration reform, rather than simply enforcing existing laws.

In the meantime, Malecót’s experience has turned him into an unlikely advocate of E-verify, the federal system for confirming employees’ eligibility to work.

“It’s a great, great solution to the problem," Malecót said. "I’m not being me, the employer, the judge.”

More than 300,000 employers nationally are enrolled in E-Verify. However, there are concerns about the program’s accuracy. California passed a law this year prohibiting state and local government agencies from requiring contractors to use the system.


Arrests Under ICE Worksite Enforcement

Description: Criminal arrests of employers have risen steadily during the Obama administration, while administrative arrests — primarily of workers — for violating immigration laws has declined. *Includes owners, employers, managers and/or supervisors. **Primarily of workers for violations of federal immigration law. Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | December 23, 2011 at 10:36 a.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm sure a lot of people employing illegal immigrants aren't trying to exploit them, but help them. After all, they are people too and we should help fellow human beings.

I only wish the Mexican Government would work in a way that gained its peoples' trust and confidence by demonstrating ethical behavior and administering policies that improve peoples' lifestyles instead of peacefully coexisting with a class society content with exploiting fellow citizens. This is why people leave Mexico, to search for a better life because the Mexican way of life doesn't amount to much. I know that sounds harsh, but do you think a person has a lifelong ambition to work in the fields?

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | December 23, 2011 at 4:50 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

Today, over 1 million immigrants enter our country legally per year, while the illegal alien population grows by about 500,000 per year that are not apprehended. The border region still remains an anomaly, as Democrats as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declare ‘that it’s more secure”. Tell that to the ranchers and land owners along the Southern border. Sometime soon there is going to be a mass carnage on the border, and then only the Democrats will bear the blame? More than ever before we need a military presence as the drug Cartels have moved their elicit business ventures within our nation. The original strength of the fence has been weakened, and no more is it more observable in Arizona. Hundreds of miles remain open to drug criminals and terrorists that is in its self a National Security threat.

However, these United States does and always has welcomed—LEGAL IMMIGRANTS—and always will. The 50 states also welcome highly skilled workers who are educated in the Sciences, Engineering and technology. These Immigrants will never end up in the welfare lines and taking taxpayer dollars. Nobody has ever communicated that outstanding professionally people, who would be beneficial to America’s businesses not be allowed to immigrate here; we just need an expedited procedure? Nevertheless this country must restrain the poverty from other countries, as we cannot even look after our own people who have insufficient food and thousands who remain homeless.

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | December 23, 2011 at 4:51 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

Since the public visibility of Arizona fighting to sustain its own legal residents with welfare and subsidiary programs, it has been verbally attacked by the Obama administration and the radical open border special interests. Not stopping there the heavy infiltrated leftist groups in the Dept of IN-Justice has also assaulted the States of Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina to intimidate them into rescinding policing policies by the force of the courts. Not satisfied with the harassment on the sovereignty of these different States, they have now trying to enfeeble highly regarded citizens as Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpiao, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Former Congressman Tom Tancredo or anybody that does not conform to their assessment of the immigration laws. None of these policing policies would have been relevant if the US Government had enforced the immigration laws of 1986 and 1974. These are some complicit in America’s downfall is Dept of Justice Eric Holder, who has instituted harsh measures against states trying to financially survive the illegal alien invaders. Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is a typical Liberal hypocrite, who denounces different states on immigration, but is, reported to have grape plantations in Central California and hiring illegal workers; then again we cannot expect more from her, when she used military aircraft to ferry her whole family on vocational trips. Then she has also been caught out on insider trading, where you and I would go to prison. Then we have Senile Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, a haven for a large population of illegal alien. Reid has used his power--time and time again--to table E-Verify that would reduce the millions of illegal aliens in the workplace, giving low income, blue collar legal occupations a chance to fill jobs, which they have a right to have. Go to companies caught using illegal labor by ICE agents and very shortly, once the word hits the streets of the foreigners fleeing or being caught, the lines of lawful labor is waiting to be employed.

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | December 23, 2011 at 4:52 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

Don’t sit around any longer but contact your Senator and House Representative starting tomorrow at 202-224-3121. Every unenthusiastic politician must be harassed, so this bill that only needs 28 more sponsors can be read and placed in the House for voting upon. Tell them you want them to vote for Lamar Smith's sponsorship of ‘The Legal Workforce Act’, this will ensure that illegal immigrants cannot be hired anymore, amid ruthless punishment for business that continue to mock this newly revised mandatory law. Start calling Congress because it might be your job on the line, as an estimated 8 million unauthorized workers are filling jobs right now. African Americans are having a terrible time locating good jobs, with national unemployment hovering around 9 percent and black males unemployment surging to a staggering 17.6 percent, followed closely by legal Hispanics at around 13.1%.

Only NumbersUSA has the truth on illegal immigration and the corruption that is Washington. In itself Washington has made it relatively easy to enter America, as being in America is just a civil offense. But foreign national cannot survive without fraudulent documentation. Illegal immigrants are not “undocumented.” They must use fraudulent documents such as counterfeit Social Security cards, forged drivers licenses, fake “green cards,” and phony birth certificates. Experts advise that approximately 75 % of working-age illegal aliens use fraudulent Social Security cards to obtain employment, which is a—FELONY. Entering American territory is an illegal act and should be clarified as a FELONY, as in Mexico and many industrialized nations. LEARN MORE USING GOOGLE AND TYPING ID THEFT-ILLEGAL ALIENS.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 200,000 total jobs have been added to our economy over the past 12 months. Yet, the federal government imported another 1 million new foreign workers, while Congress stood by and did nothing. As 2011 comes to an end, it's another year that the feds have turned their backs on unemployed Americans by not making immigration a jobs issue.

ATTN: Keep pressing for the Keystone Pipeline, with less reliant on foreign countries that hate us and responsible prices for America and 20.000 jobs. Don’t let the environmentalists win this issue as we need a stable economy, unknown the far left who keep on spending.


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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 23, 2011 at 6:49 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

Above: Description: Criminal arrests of employers have risen steadily during the Obama administration, while administrative arrests — primarily of workers — for violating immigration laws has declined. *Includes owners, employers, managers and/or supervisors. **Primarily of workers for violations of federal immigration law. Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement"

That's because W didn't want his Texas agribusiness compadres going broke!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 23, 2011 at 6:55 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago


"Extra special attention is being paid to a GOP House primary in Utah, where incumbent Chris Cannon is facing a June 22 runoff against Matt Throckmorton. Mr. Cannon, now serving his fourth term, hasn't had a primary challenger since 1998. This one comes courtesy of deep-pocketed restrictionists campaigning on behalf of his opponent, who is running hard on xenophobia. CFAW and ProjectUSA have used billboards in Mr. Cannon's district to denounce him as a supporter of blanket amnesty for illegals. Mr. Cannon tops the restrictionists' target list because he's been one of the few politicians in either party to expose the extreme nature of their underlying agendas, which has less to do with immigration per se and more to do with environmental extremism and population-growth concerns influenced by the discredited claims of the 19th-century British economist Thomas Malthus. During a immigration subcommittee hearing in March, Mr. Cannon had the gumption to question the executive director of CIS, Mark Krikorian, as well as to challenge Roy Beck, who heads NumbersUSA and serves as "spokesman" for CFAW. After first denying it, Mr. Krikorian was forced to admit that CIS is a spin-off of FAIR. In fact, CIS, FAIR, NumbersUSA, Project-USA -- and more than a half-dozen similar groups that Republicans have become disturbingly comfy with -- were founded or funded (or both) by John Tanton, a retired doctor in Michigan. In addition to trying to stop immigration to the U.S., appropriate population-control measures for Dr. Tanton and his network include promoting China's one-child policy, sterilizing Third World women and wider use of RU-486. FAIR, where Mr. Krikorian once worked, is run by Dan Stein and shares advisers and personnel with CIS and other members of the Tanton nexus. As our Jason Riley noted in a March 15 op-ed, "By Dr. Tanton's own reckoning, FAIR has received more than $1.5 million from the Pioneer Fund, a white-supremacist outfit devoted to racial purity through eugenics." -- Wall street Journal ^ | June 17, 2004

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 23, 2011 at 7:12 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

Arizona sheriff sanctioned over destroyed documents - Yahoo!
Citing the admitted destruction of emails and patrol records by Arpaio's office, U.S. District Judge G. ... sanctions against high profile Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for destroying documents in a civil rights ... 17, 2010 file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe ...

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