THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Chertoff used firm with illegal staff

Cleaners hired undocumented help, report says

By Eileen Sullivan
Associated Press / December 12, 2008
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WASHINGTON - The nation's top immigration enforcer unknowingly used a house-cleaning company that hired illegal immigrants, an investigation has found.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff hired the Maryland-based Consistent Cleaning Services to clean his home in the D.C. suburbs every few weeks for the past three years until an investigation conducted by one of his department's agencies discovered the company hired illegal workers.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation, which began in January, culminated in charges against the owner of the cleaning company, James Reid, who was fined $22,800 in October, according to a homeland security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Nine of Reid's employees were found using fraudulent documents, and 11 did not produce the appropriate forms to verify that they were allowed to work in the United States, the official said.

The investigation has not proven that any of the illegal workers actually cleaned Chertoff's home, the official said.

The company had cleaned Chertoff's home every few weeks for $185 since 2005. Chertoff became aware of the situation in April, fired the company, and recused himself from the investigation, the official said.

Reid did not immediately return phone calls, but told The Washington Post "Our homeland security can't police their own home. How can they police our borders?"

The Post first reported the story yesterday. Reid told the paper that the fines he faces could put him out of business.

A spokesman for Chertoff, Russ Knocke, said contractors are responsible for ensuring that their employees can work in the country legally. "As customers, the Chertoffs obtained assurances from Mr. Reid that any personnel he dispatched to their home were authorized to work in the United States," Knocke said in a written statement yesterday.

The Secret Service screens all workers at the Chertoff residence.

"This matter illustrates the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and the importance of effective tools for companies to determine the lawful status of their workforce," Knocke said.

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