SAN JOSE (KCBS) – A Department of Homeland Security audit prompted San Jose-based Mi Pueblo foods to participate in a federal program that verifies a prospective employee’s immigration status, the supermarket chain said Friday.

Since September, Mi Pueblo has checked workers names against the federal E-Verify database, despite criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and calls by organized labor for a boycott.

“We believe the public will understand why we had to make that decision,” said Mi Pueblo spokeswoman Perla Rodriguez, adding that the immigration audit by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security left the company little choice.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

“Our goal is not to create fear, but to create understanding about what an audit is and what the impact of an audit is,” said Rodriguez.

Fueling criticism of the program, an audit by the Government Accounting Office found thousands of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been denied jobs because of E-Verify database flaws.

Rodriguez said few customers have abandoned Mi Pueblo since it adopted E-Verify on September 5. She urged customers to ignore a boycott called by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5, which has been trying to organize the Northern California chain’s 3,200 employees.

“They’re depending on their jobs at Mi Pueblo, and we ask our customers to really think about that. They’ve been so supportive. If anything, we thank them for continuing to shop with us,” she said. “We fully believe they’ll be here next week as they always have.”

The UFCW boycott is set to begin Monday, October 8.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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