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.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is preparing to crack down on 60 Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in the D.C.-Virginia area in an effort to weed out undocumented workers, the restaurant chain confirmed Monday.

The popular burrito chain received “notices of inspections” from the federal agency alerting owners that they’ll be audited to determine if they’re in compliance with employment eligibility laws.

“The unfortunate part of the system is that it puts companies in a very difficult position,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in an email. “On one hand, we must comply with ICE requirements to verify the status of every employee we hire, but we must do that without discriminating and violating the mandate of the Department of Justice.”

Chipotle has “very robust” policies in place that “ensure that everyone we hire is legally authorized to work in this country,” Arnold said.

The audit of local restaurants comes on the heels of similar investigations at the chain’s locations in Minnesota, which resulted in hundreds of employee firings.

“As for why ICE is picking on Chipotle, that is a better question to ask ICE,” Arnold said.

An ICE spokeswoman refused to comment on the Chipotle case — in fact, she refused to say the word “Chipotle,” opting instead for “that company.”

“As a matter of policy we don’t confirm or deny the existence of ongoing enforcement actions,” she said.

The notices sent to Chipotle represent a shift for immigration law enforcement. ICE is relying less on the kinds of sting operations it once ran to arrest illegal immigrants and focusing instead on employers’ compliance with the law.SOURCE WASHINGTON

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