The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit accusing an agricultural company of discrimination for refusing to hire American citizens for seasonal positions.
John G. Gore, acting assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, filed the lawsuit on Thursday. The lawsuit claims Crop Production Services Inc., a company based in Loveland, Colo., violated the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The complaint states that Crop Production Services discriminated against three Americans, Ramiro Torres, Ramiro Salinas, and Javier Salinas, "based on their citizenship status."
The DOJ argues the company put these individuals through a more rigorous hiring and vetting process and denied them jobs as seasonal workers at a rice breeding facility in El Campo, Texas. The company instead filled all its positions with "H-2A visa holders from Mexico."
"In the spirit of President Trump's Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, the Department of Justice will not tolerate employers who discriminate against U.S. workers because of a desire to hire temporary foreign visa holders," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "The Justice Department will enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to protect U.S. workers as they are the very backbone of our communities and our economy."
"Where there is a job available, U.S. workers should have a chance at it before we bring in workers from abroad," Sessions said.
The DOJ said Crop Production "preferred to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program," and discouraged American citizens from working at the facility.
"For instance, the complaint alleges that whereas U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them," the DOJ said. The complaint also alleges that Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment but hired H-2A workers who could not speak English."
The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits companies from deliberately discriminating based on American citizenship status.
"In addition, the H-2A visa program requires employers to recruit and hire available, qualified U.S. workers before hiring temporary foreign workers," the DOJ said.
The DOJ is seeking back pay for Torres and Ramiro and Javier Salinas, civil penalties, and remedial relief in the lawsuit.
"Specifically, [Crop Production] refused to allow Javier and Ramiro Salinas to start working in Seasonal Technician jobs at [Crop Production's] rice breeding facility in El Campo, Texas, during the 2016 work season, and refused to interview Ramiro Torres for a Seasonal Technician job during the 2016 season, because [Crop Production] preferred to hire only temporary foreign workers for those jobs rather than employing qualified U.S. workers such as the Injured Parties," the complaint states.
The complaint adds that on at least two occasions, visa holders from Mexico who were hired were given Social Security Numbers by Crop Production after they started work.
A spokesperson for Crop Production told the Washington Free Beacon it is reviewing the allegations in the complaint.
"CPS is aware of the complaint that was issued today, but is not able to comment on it as it is an active legal matter," the spokesperson said. "CPS is reviewing the allegations and determining its response."
The lawsuit is consistent with the Trump administration's goals on reforming the immigration system. In August, the White House announced its support for the RAISE Act, which would alter employment visas to prioritize higher-skilled immigrants.
"For decades, low-skilled and unskilled immigration into the United States has surged, depressing wages and harming America's most vulnerable citizens," the White House said. "The RAISE Act follows through on President Trump's promise to reform our immigration system to put America first."
Update 3:52 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Crop Production.