ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A St. Paul baking company that closed down after an immigration audit is among nearly three dozen Minnesota businesses that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has targeted since President Donald Trump took office.
ICE audited as least 34 Minnesota companies from January 2017 through April 2018 as part of the government’s increased enforcement efforts to discourage illegal work. That number doesn’t take into account pending and open cases like the one concerning St. Agnes Baking Co., Minnesota Public Radio reported.
The wholesale bakery closed in January after 15 years as a result of an audit finding half its employees were unauthorized to work in the country. The 23 employees had to be terminated after being unable to show proper work authorization. St. Agnes couldn’t find replacements with the same expertise by ICE’s deadline, so top officials there decided to stop production and clear out the warehouse.
“I wish I could list (the employees) all by name because they deserve it,” said Mike Mitchelson, the bakery’s operations director. “They built the company.”
The company said no arrests resulted from the audit and none of the workers has been deported.
A two-phase operation this year at more than 5,200 businesses around the U.S. resulted in 100 arrests, according to ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer. He said ICE conducted more than 110 audits in the region that includes Minnesota.
Audits themselves don’t spark investigations, but ICE could launch one if the agency finds egregious violations or a pattern of intent to deceive, Neudauer said.
Dan McGleno, St. Agnes Baking CEO, said he still keeps in touch with his former employees. He said he was unaware some of the employees were unauthorized to work in the U.S.
“I was sitting with one of the guys in the break room and he just said the biggest mistake that he made was he got too comfortable; as a Mexican he should’ve known better,” McGleno recalled. “And boy, that just blew me away.”