On March 31, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas held that employees lacked standing to sue their former employer under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act ("RICO") on the basis that their wages were depressed because the employer transported, harbored, and hired undocumented immigrants. See Varela v. Gonzales, No. 3:13-cv-01278 (N.D. Tex. 2014). The court found that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the alleged RICO violations were the proximate cause of their depressed wages.
Under RICO's civil provisions, a plaintiff can establish a violation by demonstrating that the defendant committed a "pattern of racketeering activity" within the past 10 years. Certain immigration violations fall within the definition of "racketeering activity" under this statute. Successful RICO plaintiffs can recover treble damages, plus counsel fees. Although this case was dismissed, the RICO claim raised by the plaintiffs serves as another reminder of the risks associated with the employment of undocumented workers and underscores the importance for employers to develop, implement, and enforce proper hiring practices that ensure that all employees are authorized to work in the United States.