Department of Homeland security is stepping up enforcement nationwide. We see stepped-up enforcement in Columbus, Ohio and throughout Michigan as in many parts of the US. By now, many have likely heard the news surrounding the February 10, 2010 federal grand jury indictment of Opas Sinprasong. The E visa holder and restaurant owner is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, 40 counts of failure to pay employee federal payroll taxes, 5 counts of false swearing in an immigration matter and 4 counts of harboring illegal aliens. Last Wednesday, a $1 million bond was set for Opas Sinprasong.
The specific allegations against Mr. Sinprasong include keeping the passports of his foreign national employees to ensure they would not leave the U.S., requiring his employees to work up to 32 hours of overtime per week without proper compensation, and requiring his foreign national employees to pay him illegal and exorbitant visa preparation fees. The highly publicized story of Opas Sinprasong’s flagrant immigration and tax violations, unfortunately, draws attention to a small minority of individuals that abuse the system and overshadows the vast majority of law-abiding foreign nationals.
What many have likely not heard about is the behind-the-scenes story of how Mr. Sinprasong was brought to justice through the efforts of an anonymous employee, a Colorado University student and the Immigrant Legal Center. The anonymous employee worked at one of Mr. Sinprasong’s restaurants and was brave enough to notify El Centro Humanitario (The Humanitarian Center for Day Laborers) in Denver when he noticed Mr. Sinprasong’s foreign national employees were working around the clock. A Colorado University student, Diego Pena, who was volunteering at El Centro Humanitario encouraged the anonymous employee to share his concerns with the Immigrant Legal Center. The Immigrant Legal Center was then able to compile information and gather evidence for local law enforcement.
If not for the combined efforts of the individuals and organizations noted above, Mr. Sinprasong would still be mistreating his foreign national employees. Just as it is important to uncover and prosecute immigration violators, it is also vitally important to prevent vulnerable foreign nationals from being taken advantage of by foreign or U.S. employers. The anonymous employee who reported Mr. Sinprasong should be an inspiration to us all to be more cognizant of foreign nationals being exploited and to immediately report any such suspicions to the proper authorities.