« November 2006 Table of Contents
Hillman accused of hiring illegal aliens
- James Wright
November 01, 2006
Hours before its Sept. 30 expiration date, Congress extended
the federal H2B non-skilled seasonal worker visa program for
another year, much to the relief of seafood processors across
Less than two weeks later, the owner of Hillman Shrimp &
Oyster Co. of Dickinson, Texas, and four employees were
indicted for allegedly recruiting and hiring illegal immigrants
to work at the company's processing facilities in Dickinson and
Port Lavaca, Texas.
On Oct. 11, the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston charged
the company and its manager, Antonio Ramos Gonzalez, with
conspiracy to commit visa fraud, encouraging and inducing
undocumented aliens to enter and illegally remain in the United
States as seasonal employees, using false identification
documents and making false statements to a federal agency. The
indictment alleges that violations occurred from 1999 through
late June 2004.
If convicted of the felony conspiracy charge, the company
faces a maximum fine of $500,000.
Gonzalez, a Mexican national and legal resident alien, faces
a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if
convicted on the felony conspiracy charge. He also faces a
maximum of 10 years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines for each
of three additional felony counts of visa fraud.
Owner Clifford Hillman, General Manager Steve Taylor and
employees Wendy Taylor and Derenda Williams were charged with
conspiracy to hire undocumented aliens, a misdemeanor
violation. Steve Hillman, company president, says the
allegations are unfounded.
"To our knowledge, we have always hired legal labor, be it
local citizens or workers through the U.S. government's H2B
visa worker program," Hillman says.
All H2B visa recipients are legal immigrants who return to
their home countries after finishing their jobs. The Save Our
Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2005 exempted returning
seasonal workers from the national cap of 66,000 people. It
also established anti-fraud provisions and ensured a fair
allocation among spring and summer employees.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (R-Md.) says the H2B visa extension,
included in a Department of Defense authorization bill,
guarantees pro- cessors the labor force they need during peak
seasons when they can't find American workers to take the
"Without these seasonal workers, many businesses would not
survive - forced to limit services, lay off permanent U.S.
workers or, worse yet, close their doors," Mikulski said in a
Further, the H2B extension requires employers to recruit
American workers before hiring immigrant workers. The
crab-processing industry in Mikulski's home state of Maryland
will receive significant relief, as will seafood processors
along the Gulf Coast, which is rebuilding after last year's
"It has helped us to recover and stay in business after
Hurricane Katrina," says Mike Voisin, VP of Motivatit Seafoods
in Houma, La. "We've been able to use these people to
accomplish both harvesting and processing needs. They've become
critical to the community of seafood processors and harvesters.
They're cogs in the wheel." -James Wright