SEATTLE (CN) – After finding more than 900 apple pickers it suspected of lacking work authorization, the immigration service this week fined a Washington company $2.25 million.
It’s a record civil fine for Washington state, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.
Broetje Orchards describes itself on its website as a Christian company which has “birthed a family of ministries.” It claims to be one of the largest fruit orchards in the nation, with more than 6,000 acres of apples and cherries.
ICE said that a 2014 summer audit “revealed that nearly 950 of the company’s employees were suspected of not being authorized to work in the United States.”
Broetje did not admit to criminal wrongdoing, but the federal investigation showed that it “continued to employ unauthorized workers after being advised by ICE those employees did not have permission to work in the United States,” ICE said in a statement.
Broetje Orchards used the ICE announcement to bash Congress for failing to pass immigration reform. It told the Walla Walla Union Bulletin that its case “highlights what is clearly a dysfunctional and broken immigration system.”
“The agricultural labor shortage needs to be fixed, and now,” the company said.
Broetje has 6,175 acres of orchards in eastern Washington, near Walla Walla.
Washington is the largest apple producer in the United States.
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