Thursday, May 01, 2008

Doing the Right Thing

It's no secret; halting illegal immigration is, basically, a three-step process. First, secure the borders; second, round up the illegals who are here and deport them, and finally, punish the employers who hire them.

Collectively, the federal government's record in these areas is abysmal, but there are those rare officials who try to do the right thing. One of them is Federal District Judge Raymond A. Jackson, assigned to the Eastern District of Virginia. On Thursday, Judge Jackson (a Clinton appointee) sentenced a fishing company executive to 90 days in jail, for employing illegals on its scallop trawlers.

As the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports:

Despite calls for leniency from prosecution and defense attorneys, U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson gave Yvonne Michelle Peabody, operator of the Peabody Corp., 90 days in prison for employing undocumented workers over a four-year period.

The Newport News-based Peabody Corp. owns a fleet of trawlers used mostly for scalloping. Michelle Peabody, as she is known, and her father, company founder William “Frankie” Peabody, pleaded guilty to employing illegal immigrants.

The elder Peabody was sentenced Wednesday to five months of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Jackson also ordered Michelle Peabody to serve four months of home detention after she gets out of custody.

The Peabodys previously agreed to pay $6.9 million in fines and forfeitures, which represents the profits they made using the undocumented workers. But the question of jail time remained unanswered as Jackson considered the backgrounds of the defendants and other factors.

“The court finds your conduct to be egregious,” Jackson told Michelle Peabody, noting that the government could have easily charged her with felony crimes.

Judge Jackson cited a number of reasons for sending Ms. Peabody to jail, including her position as chairwoman of the law enforcement subcommittee of the regional fisheries council--during the same period that her company employed illegals.

Peabody's defense attorney, Kenneth Bell, told reporters that it "was the first time in 25 years of practice" that he saw a defendant, with no prior criminal record, get prison time for a misdemeanor. Bell requested leniency for his client, as did federal prosecutor Joseph Padilla, who recommended "community confinement" in a half-way house.

But Jackson ignored those pleas, using the sentence to send a message to the local fishing community. Employment of illegal immigrants is said to be pervasive in the business, which brings in millions of dollars a year for commercial fishing firms.

Unlike other firms that hire illegals, Peabody's company was not accused of exploiting the workers, who received the same wages as their American counterparts--more than $10,000 per trip, in some cases. Documents filed by the prosecutor indicated that Peabody valued "foreign-born workers" because they were "diligent" and "didn't complain."

The outcome of the Peabody case is another reminder that immigration laws work--when prosecutors and judges do the right thing. While illegals are almost certainly working on other Virginia-based boats, the jail time and hefty fines imposed on the Peabodys will make other operators think twice about hiring "undocumented" workers.

3 comments:

cold pizza said...

Woo-hoo! -cp

Max said...

It's nearly impossible to pick a "oe size fits all" fine for businesses. Some fines are large enough to bankrupt your mom-and-pop store and small enough for other companies to pay them out of petty cash.

On the other hand, people magically value their time "the right amount," and jail time -- even relatively short sentences -- can change behavior across the industry very quickly.

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2008/05/re-doing-right-thing.html