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ICE Audit Leads To Firing Of 55 Undocumented Workers

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The company is in charge of waste disposal and recycling for the City of Escondido. The workers were fired after immigration authorities found they lacked the proper paperwork.

Escondido Disposal, Inc. fired 55 undocumented employees between late July and early August after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audited the company as part of its workplace inspection program.

Jeff Ritchie, vice president of the firm, said most of the employees worked at a recycling facility that handles materials for all of North San Diego County. Most of them had been with the company between five and six years.

Ritchie said ICE notified the company of the audit a year ago, but didn't send the list of suspected undocumented workers until this summer.

Company management gave workers 72 hours to produce employment eligibility documents, such as work visas or social security cards. Those who failed to do so were fired.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said he welcomed the audit. He said the company's ability to quickly find workers to replace the positions validates ICE's workplace audit program.

"A lot of legal residents need jobs," Abed said. "And I think 55 jobs went from people who are not supposed to be getting those jobs to those who are eligible to work."

ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said the agency does not comment on audits in which there were no charges filed or fines levied. The company said it has not been fined or charged with a crime.

She said, in general, the audit was part of ICE's new emphasis on making employers responsible for ensuring workers have valid documents. Mack said the agency began a surge of audits this summer, issuing notices of inspection to 1,000 employers across the country in June. Authorities are especially targeting businesses that are "related to critical infrastructure and key resources," Mack wrote in a statement.

ICE has conducted 2,393 employment eligibility audits nationwide in fiscal year 2010-2011.

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