On January 30, 2014, federal agents arrested the owners of two employment agencies in Houston and charged them with recruiting and placing undocumented immigrants at restaurant jobs around the country, among other federal crimes. If convicted, each defendant faces up to 10 years just on the immigration conspiracy charge.

The raids on Hong Li Job Agency and the Tai Shan Employment Agency were part of a wider undercover investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that led to the arrest of 30 other suspects including operators and managers connected with Chinese restaurants in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Maine, Texas and elsewhere who are believed to have knowingly employed and exploited undocumented workers.

Hiring of unauthorized workers is a violation of section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which involves the failure of an employer to verify the employment eligibility of any person hired after November 6, 1986, by using the Form I-9.

The workers, primarily from Mexico and Central America, were allegedly charged a fee of $300 to $480 for job placement which was deducted from their first month's pay. Once hired, they would work 12-hour shifts and 6 days per week at the restaurants, but were not paid overtime or allowed to keep their tips or gratuities. Workers were paid a set amount of $1,000 to $2,000 a month for putting in 72-hours of work per week. The restaurant operators paid less than the minimum wage, paid in cash to avoid employment taxes, and did not provide the workers with health insurance, vacation or sick time, ICE officials said.

Copies of both indictments are available here and here .

140130beaumont.jpg Restaurants specifically identified in the indictments are:

China Cafe - Brownwood, TX;
Asian City - Nacogdoches, TX;
China Star - Bastrop, LA;
Super Taste China Buffet - Port Allen, LA;
New China Buffet and Grill - Abbeville, LA;
Grand Buffet - Nederland, TX;
King Buffet - Port Arthur, TX;
Asian Garden - San Marcos, TX;
Buffet City Asian Cuisine - Rockwall, TX;
Weng's Buffet City Asian Cuisine - Rockwall, TX;
Dragon Buffet and Sushi - Sanger, TX