In a follow-up to their initial story last week, Willamette Week has confirmed a number of illegal immigrants currently working at Gordon Smith's frozen food plant.
On Sunday, Sept. 14, Salgado drove with this reporter through Walla Walla and identified homes where undocumented workers now employed by Smith Frozen Foods live. Currently unemployed in part because of his injuries, Salgado knew these workers were in this country illegally because they had confided in him.
WW learned Salgado was right, because two of the Smith workers he pointed out confirmed their undocumented status in interviews with WW. One other worker did not deny it.
Separately, WW spoke with a fifth undocumented immigrant who worked for more than a decade at Garrett Packing—a second business owned by the senator that supplements the shipping of Smith Frozen Foods vegetables from Eastern Oregon.
For fear of losing their jobs or possibly facing deportation, none of those workers agreed to be identified or photographed.
Their stories, however, were similar. All were longtime employees. A few said Smith Frozen Foods’ policies against hiring undocumented workers were more lax when the senator ran the plant before 1997.
Lars Larson is identifying the issue as a major problem for Smith's conservative base:
“I think this means trouble for Gordon Smith,” says KXL’s conservative talk-show host Lars Larson, who’s usually in Republicans’ corner but is a critic of Smith on this issue. “If it turns out he has employed people illegally when he has claimed he has not, that’s a problem.”