Plant's case on illegal workers to go to court

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COLUMBIA --- Most of the hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants rounded up at a South Carolina poultry plant last year have now been deported, and a federal court case against the plant's manager is getting started with an arraignment in federal court this week.

But in the community where more than 330 people were snatched up in the October raid on Columbia Farms, families are still trying to recover.

Barry Cronic, the manager of the Greenville processing plant operated by Columbia Farms, is expected to be arraigned in federal court today. When he was indicted this year, prosecutors said Mr. Cronic began hiring illegal immigrants at the plant in 2000, and did so until the raid.

Personnel manager Elaine Crump already has pleaded not guilty to lying on employment forms. And the company itself has been charged with knowing its managers were hiring and continuing to employ illegal workers.

Attorneys for Mr. Cronic, Ms. Crump and Columbia Farms did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In the aftermath of the raid, most of the illegal workers who were arrested were quickly deported. U.S. Attorney Walt Wilkins says about 25 others pleaded guilty and are serving prison time for criminal charges such as using illegal documents and false Social Security numbers or re-entering the country illegally.

Prosecutors have said the parent company, House of Raeford, is cooperating and has not been charged.

ABOUT THE LAW

Last year, South Carolina legislators passed a law that threatens to temporarily shut down businesses and impose fines for hiring illegal immigrants. The law requires businesses to take extra steps to verify new hires are here legally. Starting July 1, the law applied to all companies with at least 100 employees. All other businesses must follow by July 2010.


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