Wal-Mart reviewing employee files

| 10/28/2003

Stung by allegations it knew contract cleaning services used illegal workers, Wal-Mart Stores in Bentonville, AR, said it would review all its workers and fire any that aren't legally employed, according to press reports.

Last week, agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 245 illegal workers — 28 of them in Arkansas — at 61 Wal-Mart stores across the country. The arrests have stirred anew the debate over immigration reform.

Those arrested were members of cleaning crews the company hired through a contractor. All were in the country illegally, said a federal official. The arrests occurred as the workers were finishing their night shift at stores in 21 states.

Enforcement officials said the largest single group out of those arrested included 90 Mexican nationals. The second largest was from the Czech Republic (35), followed by Mongolia (22) and Brazil (20).

Federal law enforcement officials said the investigation grew out of earlier raids in 1998 and 2001 when about 100 illegal immigrants were arrested working at Wal-Mart stores in Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These officials said that after those arrests, 13 Wal-Mart cleaning contractors pleaded guilty to knowingly employing illegal immigrants.

Based on recordings of meetings and conversations among Wal-Mart executives, managers and contractors, the law enforcement officials said, "various immigration violations had continued to occur with direct knowledge by the Wal-Mart Corp."