WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) oversaw a health food restaurant that allegedly employed undocumented workers before his time in Congress, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday.
Grimm is one of only a small number of House Republicans who have been vocal in their support for immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents. If Grimm were to leave Congress, reform supporters would lose an ally in the House.
The former FBI agent surrendered to the feds and was taken into custody on Monday. According to an indictment unsealed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York on Monday, Grimm allegedly paid a significant portion of employee wages in cash, with some employees receiving all of their wages that way. He's accused of helping conceal over $1,000,000 in revenue from the restaurant.
“As a former FBI agent, Representative Grimm should understand the motto: fidelity, bravery, and integrity. Yet he broke our credo at nearly every turn," FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in a statement. "In this twenty-count indictment, Representative Grimm lived by a new motto: fraud, perjury, and obstruction. We demand the best from our political leaders. Yet today, we again find ourselves expecting and rightfully wanting more. And as citizens of this great nation we rightfully demand it.”
Grimm has said he sold his interest in the restaurant in 2009, according to the Associated Press, but the indictment states that he still dealt with day-to-day operation of the restaurant through 2010.
The indictment's allegation that Grimm employed undocumented workers takes on new weight in light of his support in Congress for E-Verify, a program that allows businesses to check if would-be employees are legally eligible to work in the United States.
"I do believe that we must have a comprehensive plan that first closes our borders, mandates E-Verify so that we don’t have illegal workers, and fixes our broken visa system so that we can track those overstaying their visits," he said in a statement last July. "Most importantly we need triggers that guarantee enforcement of these provisions. Only then can we begin to address the underlying issue of 11-12 million undocumented individuals in the United States."
Although Grimm dismissed an effort by Democrats to force a vote on their immigration reform bill, he said last month that he still wants to address immigration reform.
"I don't think a discharge petition is the way to get major legislation accomplished," Grimm told The Journal News in March. "But I do support immigration reform. I think our immigration system is completely broken and we have to fix it. The status quo is default amnesty. And I don't support amnesty. I don't think it's good for economy to have a broken immigration system."