Pacific Steel to undergo employment eligibility audits

The Pacific Steel Casting Company faces an audit to verify the employment eligibility of its workers.
Jeff Totten/File
The Pacific Steel Casting Company faces an audit to verify the employment eligibility of its workers.

The Berkeley-based Pacific Steel Casting Company will be subject to an audit to verify the employment eligibility of its workers, raising concerns about the termination or deportation of any illegal immigrant workers employed by the company.

Pacific Steel will be participating in an employment eligibility audit by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. The audit seeks to verify the employment eligibility of employees through the evaluation of Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9s that employees submit.

The company is the fourth-largest existing steel foundry in the nation, employing a diverse group of workers belonging to approximately 30 different nationalities, according to the company’s website.

Pacific Steel spokesperson Elisabeth Jewell said the company is currently preparing the documents necessary for the audit.

According to Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, these audits can drastically affect workers’ livelihood, since income earners can become unemployed, hurting especially the low-income families who will be unable to pay rent. He added that Pacific Steel and businesses dependent on it could also suffer large revenue losses, resulting in a ripple effect.

“These individuals are an integral part of our community, and Berkeley needs to send a message that this shouldn’t happen in our borders,” Arreguin said. “We should fight for workers and their jobs from being attacked by the audit.”

In order to deter illegal employment and to remain in compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 — which punishes employers for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers such as illegal immigrants — the Department of Homeland Security implemented this immigration enforcement strategy in April 2009 following a recommendation from President Barack Obama.

ICE penalizes employers for hiring unauthorized workers, shifting the focus to apprehending the employer rather than interrogating the employee.

“Unfortunately, deportation is higher under Obama than it was under (former president George W.) Bush,” Arreguin said.

During the audit process, ICE issues a notice of inspection to businesses, which are selected by special agents in charge at local immigration enforcement offices. Employers have three days to produce a form for every active employee, along with those who have been terminated within the past 12 months.

At the time of their employment, workers submit a Form I-9, which the ICE checks during these audits for any inaccuracies or incompletion. If there is a problem with an employee’s documents, the employer is notified and is expected to ask the worker to provide documentation to correct the discrepancy. If the worker is unable to do so, the employer can no longer legally employ the worker.

Arreguin said this process puts more of a focus on undocumented workers, some of whom have been working in the country for long periods of time.

“These audits are part of a broader trend,” Arreguin said. “The Homeland Security Department’s focus on undocumented workers is a sad reality for people that have been working for a decade or more and whose kids go to schools in the area.”

Berkeley resident Toni Stein said being terminated would be detrimental to city employees.

“This is a social responsibility issue,” Stein said. “Good work is very important in this economic downturn.”

If an employment discrepancy is found, different notices are issued after the inspection depending on the severity of the situation and, employers who continue to employ unauthorized workers may be fined, according to ICE documentation.

There have been 1,000 I-9 inspection notices issued nationwide for 2011, according to a statement from ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. There were 142 notices of intent to fine in 2009, compared to the 32 notices in 2008, resulting in $15.8 million and $2.3 million being collected in fines, respectively.

“I’m outraged that this is happening in Berkeley — it is a sanctuary city,” Arreguin said. “People should work regardless of their immigration status.”

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  • C_zrider


  • Richard

    Jess Arrequin talks like a fool

  • N5s2o83

    I wood do 12hrs a day for 7 day out the week in I’m from here so now what

  • Hernandez510

    Yall so dumb all this “Americans” who are on unemployment are so damn lazy that they rather live off unemployment that have a damn job like this. So before you speak about illegal immergrants go try to live as one of them. This damb country is made of illegal immergrants with out them this country is nothing . All american people are lazy point blank dont speak if you dont know what goes on. My father is one of this workers getting layed off because of this countrys dumb laws.  He pays taxes like everyone else so he has a rite just like you to be in this damn country.

    • Anonymous

      Only seven mis-spelled words.

      By the way, just because your father worked at a place that took taxes out of his paycheck doesn’t mean he has a right to be in this “damn country.”  Just because your father managed to get the job doesn’t mean he was entitled to it.  Maybe your father’s well paying job will go to one of those ‘lazy’ unemployed American’s that you despise so much.

      • Hernandez510

        Okay let that well payed job go to one of them lazy ppl let’s see how long they last working 10 hours 6 days a week hahaha not even a month why because they rather be in unemployment then actually work. And yes my dad has the right to be in this damn country just like the rest of us but it s pointless to explain it to ppl who are so ignorant and don’t see the immigrants make this country and due taxes just like everyone else.

        • flea58

          I worked for Pacific Steel for over 38 years. So as an American and a citizen I like working there and I hated when I had to try to explain things to someone that was not able to understand “English.” I was seriously injured because my non speaking English helper did not understand when I told her to do something so I would not be hurt. He did not understand and I was headed to emergency with a broke wrist.

  • Jodyinc1

    I am appalled by how many people support illegal immigration  in CA.  Our country is in a economical down turn and our unemployment rate is still at 8.6%, which means that millions of American people are still out of work.  Although I feel bad  about the many illegal immigrants being deported out of the country, I feel more sorry for my American brothers/sisters losing there homes due to losing their jobs.  Lets also remember that it is still illegal to jump the border in this country.  I also feel that if we find that American employers are knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, we need to fine them hard.

    •  I agree with you to some degree. Half decent paying  job positions like at pacific steel should be filled with US citizens. But jobs like landscaping for example? I cant remember the last time i met a legal looking landscaper. Most US citizens would rather collect unemployment, Social security, And be on section 8 than work a low level job they feel they`re too good for. In a way the lower paying position like , Fruit picking, And landscaping we need illegals. Most legal US citizens would never take those positions.

    • Mperez Mnative

      Your are very wrong Jodyinc1 because there are a lots of jobs like jobs at pacific steel casting (hard, hot, dirty enviromnet) open right now, but lazy people like you don’t wanna do it. ah I am legal in this beautiful country so don’t worry for me.

  • Ginneelysf

    I LOVE IT!!!  More Audits need to be done,… jobs need to be given back to Americans!!

  • Stop illegality

    It’s amazing how many of these “rights” groups support illegal hiring practices and exploitation. Here’s a list that have opposed the enforcement: Pacific Steel Co. Workers Committee, Richmond Progressive Alliance, East
    Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Alameda County United in Defense
    of Immigrant Rights, Glass Molders Pottery Plastics Workers Union Local
    164B, Kehilla Community Synagogue.

  • There is many people that are capable of doing the job
    are  Many american citizens  Living within the area
     are Out of Work  and Need a good Union Job

  • Anonymous

    Excellent news, our laws are being enforced.