News & Election Videos

September 10, 2008

Paper accuses Smith's company of hiring illegal immigrants

Democrats are pouncing over a story in the alt-weekly Willamette Week that suggests that Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R-Ore.) frozen food company hired illegal immigrants.  The story offers no concrete evidence of the charges, but offers secondhand testimony from people connected to the company.

From the Willamette Week’s story:

WW recently spent several days in Weston, and the nearby cities of Milton-Freewater and Walla Walla, Wash., where most of Smith’s employees live. WW spoke to dozens of current and former Smith workers, Latino advocates, court personnel, public defenders, educators, police administrators, church officials, social service agents and business owners and determined that some portion of Smith’s workforce comprises undocumented immigrants.

It’s a revelation that may not be newsworthy around Weston, where most people this reporter interviewed knew, or assumed, that the agricultural processing plant hired illegal immigrants.

But it is news to Oregon’s Republican foot soldiers, the Smith loyalists currently knocking on doors and raising money to support the two-term incumbent’s upcoming election.

Smith’s campaign categorically denied the charges laid out in the alternative weekly’s story, calling it a “politically motivated hit piece.”

“Today’s Willamette Week article is false,” Smith said in a statement. “It is wholly compromised of unsubstantiated and ridiculous allegations from a liberal tabloid whose purpose is to advance a left-wing agenda rather than the truth.”

His Democratic opponent, Jeff Merkley, demanded that Smith disclose his company's records to the media and the public.

"This would allow a thorough review into very serious allegations about hiring undocumented workers and mistreating his workforce," Merkley said in a statement.