An attorney representing two local restaurants that were fined $20,610 for allegedly violating federal immigration law has requested a review hearing before a federal judge, marking the start of a legal battle that could last several weeks or months, an immigration official said.
Ron Sanders, regional director for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Kansas City, Mo., said his office received the request early this week from Roberta Farrell.
Farrell, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney, is representing Lucy White, an owner of the Panda Garden restaurant, 1500 W. Sixth, and the Plum Tree restaurant, 2620 Iowa. The restaurants were fined by the INS on March 28 after nine former restaurant employees were arrested on charges of violating immigration law on Jan. 31.
THE INS alleges that the restaurants illegally hired and did not verify the employment records of the employees, who were not United States citizens.
The fine would have been binding if the request for a review hearing had not been made within 30 days, Sanders said.
"The next step will be for the judge to request briefs from both parties stating what the allegations were and to find the common ground," he said.
Sanders said that common ground would include mutual party agreement on legal aspects of the charges, including the correct law that applies to the alleged violations, and the correct number of alleged violations.
"It's just going to be a back and forth process that will be directed by the judge," Sanders said.
HE SAID A hearing would not be scheduled by a judge until some of the disagreements between the INS and Farrell are hammered out. A judge for the case has not been named, Sanders said.
"The judge has to know whether he will be addressing 100 violations or five violations, before he will schedule the hearing," Sanders said.
However, Sanders said all similar immigration cases in his area have been settled before a hearing is held.
When asked how long the legal process between the two parties could go on, Sanders said, "I would guess about three months."
"But, traditionally, almost all of these cases have been settled before it gets to the point of a hearing," he said.
Farrell could not be reached for comment this week.