Food company to increase surveillance for hiring process

Thursday, March 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:38 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

ST. JOSEPH — Triumph Foods will upgrade the screening process it uses to guard against illegal immigrants trying to get jobs, the company said.

Triumph currently uses a basic program offered by the federal government to try and catch people using false identities when they apply for work. But company officials said Tuesday they would upgrade the program, using a photo screening pilot program offered on a volunteer basis by U.S. immigration services.

The announcement comes about a month after police said a homicide victim and a suspect in his death both used false identification to get jobs at Triumph.

The current program used by Triumph lets the company run applicants’ names and Social Security numbers through a federal database. With the new program, Triumph can review photos of individuals who hold permanent resident cards or temporary work permits to make sure faces and names match.

Patt Lilly, chief administrative officer for Triumph, said the company is aware that some illegal workers get through the hiring process, but access to more government records could reduce that number.

Three employees review applicants’ documentation and dozens of applicants are turned away each week at the company, which employs 2,300 workers, he said.

Lilly said the pork plant will begin using the new program after it submits the final paperwork, possibly as early as next week.

Before the pork plant opened, St. Joseph officials had tied employees’ legal status to other job-creation standards in its tax incentive package. The city required regular employment reports and certification that the company was not knowingly employing illegal immigrants and was following federal requirements to verify employees’ legal status.

Clint Thompson, director of planning and community development for St. Joseph, said the quarterly audits have found few problems.

“They have always gone above what the agreement specifies in regard to making sure they don’t hire illegal aliens,” Thompson said. “They have done everything possible.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reviewed documents of Triumph employees shortly after Memorial Day weekend in 2006 and did not find any significant violations.

— The Associated Press

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