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Dunkin' Donuts finds holes in immigration program

Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup and bag

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: When President Bush began his push for immigration reform more than a year ago, he visited a Dunkin' Donuts in Northern Virginia to do a photo-op with the press. How come? Well, the company had just decided to participate in a federal pilot program designed to help businesses weed out illegal immigrants.

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports now, the donut giant is taking it one step farther.


Steve Henn: This April, the owner of a Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Connecticut was sent to jail and fined a million dollars for smuggling illegal workers into the country.

Now, the corporation's cracking down. In the last few months, Dunkin Brands accused the owners of Dunkin' Donuts stores Florida, Atlanta, Massachusetts and New Jersey of failing to obey immigration laws.

Robert Zarco's an attorney who represents some of those small-business owners.

Robert Zarco: It appears to me that Dunkin is acting as a private enforcer of governmental policies.

The company's taking all of these small businesses to court, attempting to sever its relationship with them.

Bethany Appleby: I don't think that that's very common — at least it's not something I have seen in my practice.

Bethany Appleby is an attorney at Wiggins and Dana. She specializes in the franchise law. She says usually when a company like Dunkin Donuts tries to close down a franchise, it's because the place is a mess or isn't paying royalties. But there are a number of signs Dunkin' Brands has put a lot of pressure on its franchisees recently to make sure their employees are in this country legally.

Tim Bell's executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative.

Tim Bell: A number of employees have come into our organization complaining that they were fired from Dunkin' Donuts on the basis of their Social Security numbers.

Some immigrant groups in Chicago have called for a boycott of the chain.Dunkin' Brands officials declined to comment on tape, but they said their company was just trying to do the right thing.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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