The Justice Department filed suit against a Colorado company Thursday saying it discriminated against American workers by hiring seasonal foreigners instead.
The Loveland-based Crop Production Services Inc. refused at least three US citizens work in 2016 because it preferred to hire temporary workers with H-2A visas, according to the Justice Department.
The Crop Production Services case is the first federal prosecution since President Trump’s America First executive order signed on April 18 that urges the enforcement of all buy American and hire American laws and regulations.
There was one previous settlement in May against an onion farm in New Mexico accused of preferring foreign visa holders. Settlement negotiations with Crop Production Services broke down, necessitating the formal suit, according to a Justice Department official.
“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.
The Justice Department alleges American workers were denied work as technicians at the rice breeding facility in El Campo, Texas in 2016 and gave all 15 available jobs to immigrant seasonal workers. The US workers were subject to a more “onerous hiring process” than H-2A workers, such as drug tests, background tests and English proficiency, according to the complaint.
Crop Production is being hit with an alleged violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which makes it unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against Americans because of their citizenship. The H2-A visa program also mandates employers to first seek out available US workers, according to the Justice Department.
“The Justice Department will enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to protect US workers as they are the very backbone of our communities and our economy,” Sessions said. “Where there is a job available, US workers should have a chance at it before we bring in workers from abroad.”
A rep for Crop Production Services did not immediately return a phone call for comment. The Justice Department wants the company to pay the workers back pay, civil penalties and to take other measures to overcome the effects of discrimination.