The INS Hits LA’s Garment Industry Hard. Rock Hard.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service staged one of the biggest investigations and sweeps of undocumented workers in the Los Angeles Apparel industry in March and April, leaving the industry reeling in the aftermath.

The investigations sparked a debate among manufacturers and contractors, who often fight a losing battle against the sophisticated network of fraudulent work-authorization documents, and industry leaders, who claim that they have been unfairly targeted.

Since the operation began in early March, the INS said it has formally reviewed the hiring records of some 75 garment-related businesses, which employ more than 7,000 workers. To date, according to the INS, its investigators have found potential problems with the work-authorization documents submitted by more than one-third of those workers.

The agency obtained warrants and investigated 10 companies, which subsequently fired a total of 1,061 workers based on suspicious or outright fraudulent work-authorization documents, according to Richard Rogers, Los Angeles INS district director. He noted that there were also 418 apprehensions.