U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s brother, William Holder, apparently employs illegal foreign workers at one or more of the four McDonald’s restaurants he and his wife Deborah purchased last year in Wake County, a Carolina Journal investigation has found.
Eric Holder has visited one of the restaurants and may be aware of his brother’s business activities. William Holder has confirmed that his brother, the attorney general, visited the Knightdale location in January, or possibly December, soon after the Holders purchased the restaurants. Sources told CJ that while Eric was there he posed for pictures with employees and restaurant patrons.
CJ concluded that the restaurants probably employ illegal workers after a CJ reporter made approximately 30 visits in September to observe and talk with workers at the restaurants, at least one of which has been visited by the attorney general. The reporter was present during a conversation at which some employees stated they did not have a Social Security number, a green card, or any other document that would give them the legal authority to work in the United States.
One employee said he was planning to go through the “deferred action” program announced in June by President Obama that would allow young-adult illegal immigrants to receive legal-resident status and work permits. CJ also has a document corroborating that one of the workers does not have a green card or Social Security number.
The majority of the employees in each restaurant appear to be of Hispanic descent, and, when not interacting with customers, conversations between workers most often were in Spanish. In conversations with the reporter, some workers indicated they did not speak English.
Before moving to North Carolina, William Holder operated a McDonald’s restaurant at the U.S. Air Terminal at LaGuardia International Airport. He and his wife signed a franchise agreement with McDonald’s Corp. in September 1992 that granted them a license to operate the restaurant.
At the time Holder signed the agreement, he was employed as a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He served as a Port Authority officer for slightly more than 20 years. He achieved the rank of lieutenant by the time he retired in May 1999, a spokeswoman for the authority told CJ.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey builds and operates transportation infrastructure in and around New York City, including LaGuardia International Airport, Kennedy International Airport, and Newark International Airport.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts to contact William Holder by phone, CJ contacted the McDonald’s regional corporate office in Raleigh Sept. 25 and shared the observations about potential illegal hiring at the Holders’ McDonald’s locations. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Quenneville said she would respond to those observations.
The following day, CJ spoke by phone with William Holder, and he said he did not employ illegal workers. “We have a process in place to make sure the paperwork is correct,” he said. He then suggested that CJ contact the McDonald’s corporate office and said he would have no further comment.
“All public information is released through the corporation,” he said.
However, on Sept. 27, CJ received an email, purportedly from Holder:
Mr Carrington, as a follow up on our conversation yesterday about my organization’s workforce, i wish to convey the following ; as a McDonalds franchisee, i take these matters seriously. My organization strives to comply with all local, state and federal employment and immigration laws. As an employer, i do not knowingly hire or employ undocumented or unauthorized workers. Our current job application process requires all individuals accepting employment to provide proof of their identity and authorization to work in the United States; they must also complete the federally mandated Form I-9 to document their authorization to be employed in this country. Every employee in my organization has done so and i have not received any credible evidence suggesting that any of my employees lack such employment authorization. If you have concrete and credible evidence to suggest otherwise, please share that information with me personally so that I can take appropriate action. We are an equal opportunity employer. We remain committed to diversity and will continue to hire, train, and promote a diverse workforce.
William Y. Holder
McDonald’s Owner / Operator
The email was sent from an address belonging to the NY/NJ Black McDonald’s Operators Association Inc. in Commack, N.Y. It included no telephone number for return contact. CJ sent a reply to the email, asking who sent it, and also requesting a phone call confirming receipt of the message. CJ has received no reply.
Eric Holder’s Justice Department has faced criticism from opponents of illegal immigration who say the attorney general has not enforced immigration law aggressively. USDOJ sued the state of Arizona, which in 2010 passed a law cracking down on illegal immigration. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated three portions of that law, saying most immigration enforcement is a federal concern. But one section remains in effect, requiring police to arrest and hold anyone committing a crime they believe is in the country illegally and keep the defendant in custody until federal officials determine the defendant’s immigration status.
In late October, more than three weeks after a version of this story appeared at Carolina Journal Online, Candace Jean-Louis, human resources director for the Raleigh region of McDonald’s USA, responded to several of CJ’s questions by email.
“As independent business owners, McDonald’s franchisees are responsible for their hiring decisions and set their own employment policies,” the email read. “Like all business owners, however, franchisees are required to abide by applicable local, state and federal employment laws. We suggest you contact Mr. Holder directly for further information.”
Before hiring any person to work for more than three business days, federal law requires the employer and employee to complete Form I-9 for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security.
“The purpose of this form is to document that each new employee (citizen and noncitizen) hired after November 6, 1986, is authorized to work in the United States,” the instructions say.
A number of documents can satisfy I-9 requirements. An employee can meet the requirements by presenting one identifier if it’s either a U.S. passport or passport card; a permanent resident or “green” card; a foreign passport with a stamp indicating the holder has a work visa; or another of several authorization documents listed on the I-9.
Otherwise, before working for money the employee has to present two documents: one establishing identity (such as a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, military ID, or voter registration card), and one proving legal authorization to work (including a Social Security number, U.S. birth certificate, or some other ID card issued by DHS indicating permission to work).
The employee signs a statement saying that anyone making false statements or providing fake documents can face fines or prison terms. The employer also attests, under penalty of perjury, he believes the employee is eligible to work in the United States.
The employer must record information from the documents on the I-9 and is allowed to photocopy the documents. Unless the employer is enrolled in the E-Verify program operated by DHS, he keeps the I-9 forms on file so they can be available in case of an inspection or investigation by labor or immigration officials, but the documents are not shared with law enforcement officials as a matter of routine.
Last year, Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law a measure requiring private employers with more than 25 workers to enroll in E-Verify, an online system that matches information from I-9 forms of new hires with Social Security data. If the information from an employee does not match the federal database, the employee must not be allowed to work. Larger N.C. employers were required to enroll in E-Verify by Oct. 1, and by July 1, 2013, every employer with more than 25 workers will be required to participate.
While many McDonald’s restaurants — including some in North Carolina — participate in E-Verify, CJ did not determine whether the ones owned by the Holders are enrolled in the program. When asked the percentage of North Carolina McDonald’s restaurants use E-Verify, Jean-Louis said, “McDonald’s and our franchisees follow the law as it relates to the use of E-Verify.”
Move to Raleigh
On Nov. 30, 2011, William Holder registered a company named Our Faith Management Inc. and four other companies with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office. He is listed as president, and he and Deborah A. Holder are listed as the only incorporators of all five companies. On all documents his address is an apartment in Knightdale and her address is a home the Holders owned in Dix Hills, N.Y. The Holders sold their New York home in March and bought a home in Raleigh in June.
Wake County restaurant inspection records show that the four McDonald’s restaurants were under the control of Our Faith Management when they were inspected in December 2011.
One of the restaurants is located in Raleigh on Poole Road and another on Trawick Road. A third restaurant is located in Knightdale, and the fourth is in Wendell. The Holders purchased the franchises from BHT, Inc., a McDonald’s restaurant operator headquartered in Rocky Mount.
McDonald’s Corp. owns the buildings and the land on which the restaurants are located. After buying a franchise, operators like the Holders pay a portion of sales revenues to McDonald’s and typically rent the facilities.
N.C.’s illegal population
Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., told CJ that legal residents seeking employment “clearly have documents to demonstrate” their eligibility to work. “There may be a few exceptions. All people authorized to work would easily produce documents to prove it. Based on what you told me, [employees at the McDonald’s owned by the Holders] are likely here illegally,” he said.
Camarota, who has testified numerous times to Congress about immigration policy, said that in 2000, 70.4 percent of North Carolina residents age 18-29 with a high school diploma or less were employed. In 2010-11, the most recent period information is available, only 46 percent of those North Carolinians were employed. He said it is clear that “less-educated native-born persons have less opportunities as a result of illegal immigration.” Camarota said there currently are about 300,000 illegal immigrants working in North Carolina.
Jeff Passell, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C., told CJ he estimates that in 2010, North Carolina had a total of 250,000 unauthorized immigrant workers in the labor force. He noted that his figure includes Hispanics and all other ethnic backgrounds. He estimated that in 2010 the total population of unauthorized immigrants in North Carolina was 325,000.
DHS and USDOJ play key roles in illegal immigration issues.
Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement “has developed a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that promotes national security, protects critical infrastructure and targets employers who violate employment laws or engage in abuse or exploitation of workers.”
USDOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review administers the nation’s immigration court system. The EOIR decides whether foreign-born individuals who are charged by DHS with violating immigration law should be ordered removed from the United States.
In addition to its legal fight with Arizona, the Obama administration has said that it intends to phase out the 287(g) program that allows local law enforcement agencies to be trained for and engage in immigration enforcement activities. Currently, most jurisdictions confirm an individual’s residency status only if that person has been arrested for another crime.
Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.
Editor’s note: This story is an updated version of a Carolina Journal Online News Story that was published Oct. 3.