The law enforcement agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, may be ramping up its inspections of worksites—and a Valley grower is one of the first to feel the consequences.
Fowler-based Bee Sweet Citrus says it may have lost a fifth of its workforce in anticipation of an inspection by ICE. The federal agency notified Bee Sweet that later this month, it would conduct an I-9 inspection. Meaning the company will need to hand over the forms that verify the identity and employment authorization of each of its employees.
Vice President James Sherwood says the fallout from his employees was immediate. "The number of employees that quit was initially about 40," he says. "About another 50 didn’t show up today."
Ninety employees is significant—and not just because they represent about 20 percent of its workforce. "They’re technical equipment operators, they’re forklift drivers, they’re skilled positions that are going to be difficult to replace people in," he says. "So yes, it will impact our operations."
Bee Sweet was required to warn employees about the inspection as part of California’s Immigrant Worker Protection Act that went into effect on January 1.