November 6th, 2008 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

ICE Complies with Records Request as Señor Smith Says Adiós

Pendleton 009

U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) was scheduled to address reporters outside his Pendleton home (pictured above) this afternoon in the wake of this morning's news that he lost to Democrat Jeff Merkley.

It also comes three days after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement replied finally to my Freedom of Information Act appeal, first filed in August and then again in September. The federal agency's response right after the election to my request for information on Smith Frozen Foods' hiring practices arrived in the mail just moments ago.

There are no bombshells in the two-page letter from ICE. But there is one piece of damning evidence Smith has not been completely truthful with regard to his company's hiring of illegal immigrants. On July 24, 2007, Smith told conservative radio host Lars Larson the senator's company once had had to fire three workers because federal authorities said they were not permitted to work in the United States. Here's that statement:
It was two years ago. I think I related this to you, also. We had three guys pop up, and we just said, "You need to provide better documentation or we're terminating you." Two couldn't. One disputed it and proved that the Social Security and the INS were wrong as to him. He was a legal worker. So, we had, in the meantime, let him go and had to pay him all of his back wages, which is fine. But it shows you how incapable our current system is of dealing with this - with this problem right now. But it needs to get foolproof.

Immigration officials now say they audited the company in 2000 and Smith Frozen Foods was ordered to fire 16 illegal workers, not three.

Here's the rest of what the letter says, with my emphasis in bold:

"We have conducted a search for information responsive to your request which has produced the following regarding Smith Frozen Foods, Weston, Oregon:

1. ICE has received six complaints on Smith Frozen Foods since 1980. Please note that the records only go back as far as 1987 when the Employer Sanctions case was opened in Portland.

2. Worksite enforcement was conducted in May 1988 with an educational visit to Smith Frozen Foods by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Special Agents. On June 8, 1988, agents conducted an I-9 inspection at Smith Frozen Foods resulting in some paperwork deficiencies with the I-9 forms which were noted and corrected. The last worksite enforcement activity was the employer seminar conducted in June 2000 which is discussed in Question 3 below. There has been no other enforcement activity since June 2000.

3. Results of investigations disclose no fines, penalties or arrests. In May and June of 2000, INS conducted I-9 audits of 25 employers in the Pendleton, Hermiston and Umatilla areas and then held an educational seminar whereby employers received the audit results, and if applicable, letters to the employers to terminate individuals whom INS determined were not eligible to work in the United States. Smith Frozen Foods was one of the businesses who participated in this seminar. According to records contained in the case file, Smith Frozen Foods received written notification by INS to terminate the employment of 16 aliens who were unauthorized to be employed. Subsequently, the Portland INS office received written confirmation by Smith Frozen Foods that they had complied with the requirement to terminate the employment of the 16 aliens.

There were no responsive records concerning either Brittany Farming, Inc., or Garrett Packing Company."

WW first reported on Smith Frozen Foods' hiring practices on Sept. 10, with Señor Smith. The newspaper followed up with Señor Smith, Part Dos, Tres Strikes and "Four" the Record.

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