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Three-Year Prison Sentence for Guilty Plea in “Conspiracy to Harbor Undocumented Aliens for Profit” Case

Agriprocessors_plant_3.jpgThe former manager of a poultry processing facility, who had previously pleaded guilty to a single count of “conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit,” was sentenced to forty-one months in prison in January 2014. United States v. Amara, No. 2:08-cr-01324, judgment (N.D. Iowa, Jan. 31, 2014). The case arose from a raid on a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa in May 2008, in which agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies arrested almost four hundred people. It was the largest workplace enforcement raid in Iowa’s history, and one of the largest in the nation.

Two types of enforcement proceedings resulted from the raid in Postville: document fraud charges against plant workers, and charges of labor and immigration law violations against managers. ICE and other agencies had reportedly filed more than seven hundred complaints involving immigration violations and other alleged criminal activity at the plant during the previous two years. Agents arrested 389 of the 968 people working at the plant. Most of the arrestees were from Guatemala and Mexico.

Federal prosecutors charged many of the plant workers with “aggravated identity theft,” 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), for the alleged use of false documents, and obtained quick convictions. This drew a rebuke from the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that prosecutors must prove that the workers had actual knowledge that the documents belonged to someone else, not merely that the documents were fraudulent. Flores-Figueroa v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 1886 (2009).

The defendant in the recent proceeding, Hosam Amara, managed the poultry side of the facility. For a period of at least five years prior to the raid, according to prosecutors, he harbored undocumented immigrants at the facility, knowing that they lacked lawful immigration status and work authorization, for a commercial purpose. He was also accused of inducing people to reside in the U.S. despite their lack of lawful immigration status. In less technical legal terms, he was also accused of taking financial advantage of plant employees and engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct.

The government’s indictment, last amended in July 2009, charged him with twenty-seven counts:
– One count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I);
– Twenty-four counts of harboring undocumented aliens for profit, aiding and abetting the same, and encouraging or inducing aliens to enter or reside in the U.S. in violation of law, 8 U.S.C. §§ 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), (iv), and (v)(II);
– One count of conspiracy to commit document fraud, 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1546(a); and – One count of aiding and abetting document fraud, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1546(a).

The defendant pleaded guilty on August 30, 2013 to the first count of conspiracy, which can carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison. 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(B)(i). On January 31, 2014, the judge sentenced him to forty-one months in prison.

Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger represents immigrants currently living in New York and New Jersey, individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States, family members who wish to bring a loved one here, and employers who want to hire talent from abroad. We help immigrants obtain visas and green cards, and we advise families and businesses on how to petition for immigrants to come to the U.S. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

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Immigration Detainers are Not Binding on Local Law Enforcement, According to Third Circuit Court of Appeals, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 5, 2014
Employers Must Completely Fill Out I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Forms or Risk Penalties, According to Court, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 3, 2013
Immigration Authorities Raid New York Convenience Stores for Alleged Employment Violations, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 27, 2013
Photo credit: By Matthew Walleser (originally posted to Flickr as DSC_0376) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.