Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

RICO at the Border: Interpreting Anza V. Ideal Steel Supply Corp. and Its Effect on Immigration Enforcement

Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

RICO at the Border: Interpreting Anza V. Ideal Steel Supply Corp. and Its Effect on Immigration Enforcement

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Living the American dream, Mark Gould began his career digging ditches and now owns Gould Construction in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.1 Gould Construction installs sewer systems, sidewalks, foundations, and waste-water treatment plants.2 Mr. Gould struggles to employ enough unskilled laborers for this dirty and back-breaking work without employing unauthorized aliens. Even Mr. Gould understands: "Every kid coming out of school feels they're entitled to a job other than digging a ditch for Gould Construction. And there's nothing wrong with that. I mean I grew up digging ditches, but the bottom line is we all want better for our children."3 Even paying twice the minimum wage, Gould Construction, like many companies in low-skilled industries, is in constant search for new workers and worries that the increasingly tough immigration laws will prevent work completion.4

Imagine Melissa, a lifelong resident of a small midwestern city.5 After dropping out of high school, Melissa has worked cleaning houses, stocking stores, and waiting tables for the last twenty years.6 Life is an ongoing struggle to make ends meet despite receiving an hourly wage well above minimum wage.7 An increase of a mere dollar an hour would raise her annual income by at least $2,000 a year.8

Then mere is Veronica Rodriguez Pérez, a U.S. citizen who works on a production line at the Swift beef processing plant in Greeley, Colorado.9 During the workplace raids targeting six Swift & Company meat processing plants across the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested and took into custody her husband, Roberto Pérez García, who is in the United States illegally.10 Veronica worried about their future, as well as the fate of their six-month-old Colorado-born son. She was also angry at the way ICE officials treated them: "They made him and myself seem luce criminals. He tried to give me a kiss on the forehead, but they would not let us talk to each other."11

In low-skilled industries, both the employers' and the legal employees' difficulties arise from the supply and demand of unskilled labor. Although the employee is easier to empathize with on a personal level, the low-skilled industries produce many of the goods and services that are central to the U.S. economy and create jobs that everyone is qualified to fill. The U.S. government therefore struggles to balance the competition of a global market, the needs of the country's poorest citizens, and the political consequences of immigration enforcement.

Private enforcement of immigration laws creates implementation without government officials suffering the political wrath of competing interest groups. As of late, the civil Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act,12 traditionally a method to fight organized crime, has emerged as the private method of choice for employees to force employers to face the consequences of knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens.13 It does so, however, by embracing a theory of causation that is tenuous, without a limiting principle, and, recently, inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent.14 Although the lower courts have not yet embraced this narrowing of standing,15 bringing suits that are contrary to Supreme Court precedent is an inefficient and undesirable method of enforcing immigration law. Nonetheless, the "private attorney general" vision of RICO enforcement is not without some advantages, and with proper congressional legislation, the strengths of civil RICO can be maintained without RICO's threat of treble damages or the stigma of suit under an organized crime statute.

This Note explains how Anza v. Ideal Steel Supply Corp.,16 a recent Supreme Court decision, should preclude legal employees from bringing suit under civil RICO when employers knowingly hire unauthorized workers. Part II of the Note describes the nature of unauthorized aliens and how their presence especially challenges the legal, unskilled workforce. …

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