By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The owner of Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse, James Brantley, has been sentenced by Federal Judge Ronnie Greer to 18 months in federal prison as a result of his illegal conduct, which led Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to raid his plant in April 2018. Previously, Brantley had pled guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and employing undocumented workers.

Brantley should consider himself lucky as he could have been sentenced for of up to 30 years in prison. Due to his cooperation with federal authorities, the prosecutors recommended a reduced sentence. Brantley and his lawyer had asked he be spared jail time. But Judge Greer called a sentence of probation a step too far. He sentenced Brantley to 18 months in prison, plus three years on probation.

Judge Greer stated: "I cannot impose a probationary sentence in this case. In my view, to do so would undermine respect for our court system and create a situation where people would draw the conclusion that a certain class of people are treated more leniently than others. This is an offense made even more serious in my view because of the political climate of today. The impact has been quite severe for many (of the plant's former workers). Many of them have been separated from their wives, their husbands, their children. Some of them have gone to jail."

"It’s important that we hold employers like Brantley accountable," said Stephanie Teatro, co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

According to court records, Brantley began hiring undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Guatemala, 20 to 30 years ago. Initially, Brantley and Southeastern Provision did not ask for or require any identification and never had I-9 forms completed on employees hired. In more recent years, Southeastern Provision asked for Social Security numbers and floor supervisors encouraged workers to submit fake numbers. However, it still did not ever complete I-9 forms. The slaughterhouse's floor supervisors, Carl and Jason Kinser, were each sentenced to three years’ probation in June 2019.

Southeastern Provision ducked about $2.5 million in payroll taxes by hiring undocumented immigrants to work in the Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse in Bean Station and paying them in cash for 20 years.

Seventy-three of the men and women arrested in the April 5, 2018 raid are awaiting Immigration Court dates to determine whether they'll be deported. Others have already been sent back to their native countries.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at