Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 16, 2006, Herald Journal

Will lawsuits do the Feds’ job?


Since the government refuses to enforce immigration laws, who will do it? Will trial lawyers join the fight for immigration control now that there is big money involved?

William Zirkle of Zirkle Fruit agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit accusing him and two other executives at the Selah, Wash. fruit company of conspiring to hire thousands of illegal immigrants in order to keep wages low.

Since 1996, immigration law made a pattern of violations of the ban on hiring illegal aliens grounds for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO, lawsuit. It allows the injured legal workers to sue the crooked employers. Zirkle and the two executives are the first-ever in an illegal immigrant case settlement to come through.

The RICO based case had reached class action status in 2004, which increased the number of legal workers potentially eligible for damages to 20,000, according to the News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash. A plan to distribute the money will be filed in court Jan. 16.

The lawsuit said they conspired to hire illegal immigrants to work in the orchards and warehouses in order to depress wages. Legal workers who could have had those jobs, at higher wagers, were injured by Zirkle’s actions, according to the Yakima Herald.

Zirkle said the executives chose to settle in order to avoid legal costs, and not because they had done anything wrong.

“This is the first time in American history that any lawsuit has ever been brought to provide legal workers back pay for wage depression caused by illegal immigrant hiring,” said Howard Foster, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys from Johnson & Bell in Chicago, according to the Yakima Herald.

It will be interesting to see what trial lawyers will do now. Most of them are liberals. In the past, they have joined with other left wingers in doing everything they can to avoid reducing immigration. Even common sense, passive measures, such as erecting a big fence along the Mexican border, is out of the question for liberals.

What side will the trial lawyers take now that there is big money involved in representing legal workers?

Do the special interest groups supporting amnesty and unlimited immigration have enough money to counter million-dollar settlements such as Zirkle’s?

What will Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who probably will be the DFL candidate for US Senate, do? Will she side with the lawyers enforcing RICO laws, or will she side with the other liberals?

This case might just be enough to shake the immigration impasse loose.

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