In July I opined that an arrest of 105 undocumented workers at a fruit packing plant in Florida, without also citing the employer where there is strong evidence that it too engaged in immigration fraud, was, "lightly veiled discrimination based on race. The masters aren't prosecuted for their fraud and deceit, but the powerless workers are punished for their enslavement."
This morning it was reported that the undocumented workers arrested in that raid have been given "diversion" which would allow the charges to be dropped assuming compliance by the accused.
It was also reported that an investigation into the employer is still ongoing.
The July 16 raid on Fruit Dynamics resulted in the 105 workers being charged with using counterfeit or fictitious personal information to obtain employment and using false identity information for the purposes of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
The vast majority of the arrested workers reportedly never filed a workers’ compensation claim, prompting criticism that the state was using workers’ compensation law as a tool for immigration enforcement.
Florida Statute 440.105(4)(b)(9) holds that it’s unlawful to “knowingly present or cause to be presented any false, fraudulent, or misleading oral or written statement to any person as evidence of identity for the purpose of obtaining employment or filing or supporting a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.”
Investigators from the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud and the Collier County Sheriff’s Department executed the July raid. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said in a release at the time that the lead the investigators were following would “result in dozens of workers’ compensation arrests and many arrests for identity theft that have been potentially devastating for victims.”
It doesn't seem like that is the case after all.
|But they KNEW Bowzer was undocumented...|
Clearly the employer threatened, and executed, retaliatory action in order to keep its undocumented workforce complicit, and quiet.
Though frankly the charges against the workers arrested in my mind should just be dropped, at least the diversion program is the next best thing, except that now these poor folks also have to cough up $50 per month for the administrative cost of the program - and we know that these are people at the lowest rung of the economic ladder. $50 is meaningful to them...
According to this morning's report, though, Fruit Dynamics is also under investigation.
Ashley Carr, deputy director of communications for the Department of Financial Services, said Tuesday that “several allegations remain against the company” and that the investigation into those allegations was continuing, though she would not elaborate further.
The allegations against the company presently appear focused on misreported payroll. An October 2013 audit by Fruit Dynamics’ workers’ compensation carrier showed the company was underreporting its payroll. Guarantee Insurance Co.’s workers’ compensation policy covered 102 employees, but the plant employed an average of 165 employees five days a week according to documents filed in the case.
But attorneys and others representing the arrested workers say that the company knew it was hiring undocumented workers and used that fact as clubs against the workers to ensure their complicity and quietude.
This is more than payroll fraud. It is a case of racial discrimination bordering on enslavement.
Claimants’ attorney Michael Winer, president of Florida Workers’ Advocates, said, "to prosecute anybody under the banner of workers’ compensation fraud, when that person has never had a workers’ compensation accident, just fundamentally to me seems to be wrong.”
It's not just wrong, it's abuse, intolerance and bigotry under the color of law - and that is unforgivable in 2014.