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December 13, 2006
Feds Raid Swift

The Department of Homeland Security raided six Swift processing plants yesterday in an effort to end the theft of legitimate Social Security numbers by illegal immigrants. The meatpacker complained bitterly about the raids, but sounded defensive over an issue for which they have no blame:

Federal officials raided six meatpacking plants across the country Tuesday in the culmination of a 10-month investigation triggered by allegations that illegal immigrants were using the stolen identities of U.S. citizens.

The raids, all at plants operated by Swift & Co., resulted in arrests of workers on immigration violations and some existing criminal warrants, with charges of aggravated identity theft possible at a later date, officials said. The number of arrests was not immediately known. The company was not charged.

The action targeted the use of legitimate Social Security numbers by illegal immigrants -- what Jamie Zuieback, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called "a massive identity-theft scheme."

"We believe hundreds of U.S. citizens were affected," she said. "We do see this as a new trend, and the scope of it is very large, and that makes it significant."

The company faces no charges because they acted in good faith. They used the Basic Pilot system to check on the credentials of their workers, and the system reported that the SSNs were legitimate. No one designed the system to defeat identity theft, though, just to flag forged SSNs assigned to no one at all. However, that did not keep Swift from angrily denouncing the raids and Basic Pilot as ineffective, a position they took at Congressional hearings this summer.

No one expected Basic Pilot to catch this kind of fraud; it was designed for a different fraud, one that illegal workers use still. It has its value, and Swift should recognize it from yesterday's raids -- it kept the company from criminal liability. Their reliance on the government program has thus far granted them immunity from the charges it would normally face for employing illegals in its plants.

However, it still means that Swift will take a huge hit to its production if enough of their workers stay away from their plants. They sell more than $10 billion in beef and pork products each year, and more than 75% of its production capacity just went off line. Swift has no stockholders -- it's a private company -- and so it will not face the investor crisis that another firm might in similar circumstances. Still, they have to pay their other employees and pay their bills, which includes a supply line of smaller firms that could get wiped out if Swift cannot reopen its doors soon.

The government has let private industry off the hook for their use of illegal immigrants for too long, and it's good to see that change. However, we had better be prepared for the economic damage this could cause. With unemployment running around 4.4%, Swift will probably not get enough workers to replace the ones they lost today in the near future. The problem will multiply with every company that gets raided, and the next ones might have stockholders, and those stockholders will include retirement investors ... people like you and me.

UPDATE: Am I a whiner? Michelle says yes.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 13, 2006 5:05 AM

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» Six-State Illegal Alien Raid: All For Show? from La Shawn Barber's Corner
Update (10:13 a.m.): Michelle Malkin reports: “One of the victims [of the raid] was a Border Patrol agent!” ——————————————————R... [Read More]

Tracked on December 13, 2006 9:15 AM

» Post-Raid Coverage from The American Pundit
Michelle Malkin has coverage of the whining that has begun after the illegal-immigration raids by ICE. She has a picture of a business owner giving the DHS/ICE bus the “finger” as it drives away. You know how much I’d hate to cost the... [Read More]

Tracked on December 13, 2006 9:16 AM


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