DENVER (AP) — An immigration review of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s workers has spread to 60 of its restaurants in Virginia and the nation’s capital, the Denver-based chain said Tuesday.

Chipotle fired hundreds of workers in Minnesota after Immigration and Customs Enforcement reviewed employees’ I-9 forms last year and found some with “suspect documents.” The I-9 forms prove whether employees are eligible to work in the United States.

Workers who couldn’t clear up questions were dismissed. Spokesman Chris Arnold wouldn’t disclose exactly how many workers were fired but said Chipotle has 50 restaurants and about 1,200 employees in Minnesota.

“It’s certainly disruptive to the business and to the lives of employees,” he said.

Arnold said Tuesday that ICE gave a notice of inspection of workers’ documents for the restaurants in Virginia and Washington, but the agency hasn’t said yet whether any are suspect. An ICE spokesman didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

In the past two years, ICE has audited more than 3,200 employers suspected of hiring illegal workers.

At Chipotle, a hiring manager and someone in human resources check employees’ documents, Arnold said, but some employees may submit false identities. Arnold said the ICE checks were “eye-opening” because the company believed it had legal workers.

“It’s difficult and even heartbreaking because these were really good employees,” he said.

The dismissals are indicative of a system that isn’t working, Arnold said. Employers must walk a fine line between vigorously screening applicants to make sure they are legal without discriminating against potential employees, he said.

He said the company uses the federal E-Verify database to check worker eligibility in some states and has talked to ICE about expanding its use.

Chipotle has more than 25,000 employees.

Meanwhile the chain is fighting a lawsuit filed by some former Minnesota employees who say the company didn’t pay them their wages on time after they were fired for failing to provide documents proving they are eligible to work in the U.S. Arnold said workers were paid everything they were owed.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (11)
  1. Smart Alec says:

    Those dang Canadians!

  2. ann says:

    Seems like Taco Bell has some ICE bigwigs in their coat pocket. Why are they targeting Chipolte ? is it cause they put real meat in their tacos ? hummmmmm.

  3. SEW says:

    Amazing that they managed to figure out this one, the illegals are working at the fast food restaurants, and the Mexican themed ones, go figure! Here is a crazy thought, check all restaurants, Farm field workers, roofers, cement workers too, only problem is we will be hungry with leaking roofs and holes in our driveway!
    It’s as if this surprises people, we all know where illegals will go for work, non educated and unregistered workers don’t have allot of options, they have to go where the work is, and Americans have to understand that nobody here in the US really is lining up to take their place.

    1. Jim Jones says:

      I go to the Chipotle in the skyway downtown. There have been workers hired since the firings and the current staff is composed of many races. Legal Americans deserve the jobs and this restaurant proves that there ARE people willing to work in these positions if illegals don’t have the chance to take them. We won’t go hungry, have leaking roofs or holes in the driveway since we have many legal americans that need the work. SUPPORT AMERICAN WORKERS THAT PAY TAXES! I do. They deserve it.

    2. Joe says:

      Yeah .. you must be right. I know there are many people that would certainly rather live on the streets in boxes than degrade themselves by working in a fast food restaurant.

      Every employer should be using e-verify, and any employer that doesn’t should be fined UNMERCIFULY for hiring illegals. If a US worker won’t take the job, it doesn’t need to be done. Not being willing to pay what a job is worth does not excuse the illegal labor.

  4. Todd says:

    The ICE hits all kinds of companies. Most never get reported. Many comments added even here on WCCO’s comment section are removed within minutes of posting if they pointed out other raids. You are only being fed small amounts of reality on ICE operations.

  5. Billy says:

    Hey, I jut applied at chipolte today and got hired and I am a black man

    1. wow says:

      Its not a black issue or white issue its if you are here legally or not! Glad you got the job!

  6. Billy says:

    After firing all those illeagle immigrants that leaves more jobs for us real american citzens

  7. kathy says:

    I seen a mexican holding up a sign today in downtown Minneapolis today and it read, ” I used to work a chipolte and got fired, will work for food”.

  8. Kevin says:

    Get em boys!!!! Get em!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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