Lemon Grove Firm Notified of Fine for Violating Immigration Law

Times Staff Writer

A Lemon Grove steel manufacturer has become the sixth firm in the United States--and the second in San Diego County--to be notified that federal authorities plan to fine it for hiring illegal aliens.

The year-old immigration law makes it a crime to hire undocumented workers. Violators can be fined as much as $10,000 per alien employed; they also face jail terms of up to six months.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Border Patrol said it had notified the Rainbow Steel Co. that it would be fined $1,500 for violating the new law. The firm has 30 days to either pay the fine or request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Michael Nicley, a Border Patrol supervisory agent, said the notice to fine was issued after firm officials ignored “repeated” official requests that they stop hiring illegal aliens. The company, Nicley added, is one of two San Diego concerns that have been notified of prospective fines and one of more than 50 that have been warned of violations that could lead to fines.


“This company has had ample warning, and it is unfortunate that they chose not to comply with the law,” said Dale W. Cozart, chief Border Patrol agent in San Diego.

But Henry Gamboa, president of the 26-year-old steel fabrication firm, denied the charge and said he planned to demand a hearing. The notice, Gamboa said, stemmed from the case of a single undocumented employee who was let go once he was arrested by immigration authorities.

“I plan to go talk to the judge,” Gamboa said. “They don’t have a case.”

Rainbow Steel, he said, employs 16 people, all of them legal U.S. residents; among the workers are half a dozen who have attained temporary legal residency under the amnesty provisions of the new law, Gamboa said.


Rainbow Steel is the sixth firm nationwide to receive a notice of intent to fine under the terms of the new immigration law, said Duke Austin, a spokesman with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, parent body of the Border Patrol. Most of the cases are still pending, Austin said, although one alleged violator, a Virginia motel, has agreed to pay an $11,000 fine.

In October, immigration officials notified Mester Manufacturing, an El Cajon water-bed maker, that it intended to fine that firm $6,000 for hiring illegal aliens. The firm is challenging the fine and has requested a hearing, said Peter Larrabee, the San Diego attorney representing the firm.