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Eliminating the Illegal Alien Magnet By: Tom Fitton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, August 06, 2008


My organization, Judicial Watch, has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit filed by Canyon County, Idaho, against four large employers of illegal aliens (Canyon County v. Syngenta Seeds, Inc., et al.).  Canyon County alleges that during their employment, some of these illegal aliens committed crimes, thereby costing the county millions of dollars for criminal justice services as well as health and welfare services. 

The district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Canyon County’s lawsuit, prompting Judicial Watch’s Supreme Court petition.  Judicial Watch filed the petition for Canyon County with co-counsel Howard W. Foster, a renowned RICO expert with the Chicago law firm, Johnson & Bell, LTD.

For those of you unfamiliar with RICO, it is a federal law passed in 1970 that was originally used to destroy organized crime in America, specifically the Mafia.  Since that time, however, the use of RICO has expanded to include a variety of circumstances.  In fact, in 1996, Congress amended RICO to include certain immigration offenses. 

With respect to this specific lawsuit, there are two central questions that arise from the appellate court ruling.  First, does the term “business or property” as described in the RICO statute apply to the cost of services provided by a government entity or just to commercial activity?  And, secondly, can a court simply dismiss a lawsuit based on a lack of injury directly resulting from the RICO activity, without first determining if any direct injury had been caused?

With respect to the first question – the application of the term “business or property” to government services -- the lower courts have been split.  This is one reason why Judicial Watch believes the Supreme Court should settle the issue.  According to Judicial Watch’s petition:  The 9th Circuit Court’s conclusion “that a government entity cannot sue to recover damages unless it is acting as ‘an ordinary marketplace actor” under RICO, conflicts with the Seventh and Eighth Circuits’ conclusions, which have rejected the need for any such marketplace or commercial injury.”  We also reminded the Supreme Court of its explicit instruction to lower courts in a previous ruling to “not read limitations into RICO.”

With respect to the question of “proximate cause” or “direct injury,” Judicial Watch’s petition argues that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals bypassed the important analysis as to whether or not a direct injury resulted from the alleged RICO activity.  As our petition states, “Every other Circuit analyzes proximate causation by first determining if the plaintiff’s alleged injury flows directly from the RICO violation, or is derivative of an injury to another party.”

RICO is a tool that can be used to fight illegal immigration, and businesses that hire illegal aliens could therefore be subject to RICO lawsuits.  The lower courts in this case have ignored the plain language of the RICO statute, but we hope the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to affirm the rule of law.


Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.


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