Saturday, April 22, 2006

INB 4/22/06: Massive Raid Reflects New ICE Strategy?

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 15 - April 22, 2006

Massive Raid Reflects New ICE Strategy?

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact to subscribe or unsubscribe. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is posted at


On Apr. 19, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents
arrested 1,187 immigrant workers employed by IFCO Systems North
America, Inc., which manufactures and recycles pallets and
crates. ICE also arrested seven current and former IFCO Systems
managers on criminal charges of conspiring to transport, harbor
and encourage unauthorized workers to reside in the US for
commercial advantage and financial gain. Two of the seven were
arrested in Guilderland, New York; one in Amsterdam, New York;
two in Houston, Texas; one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and one in
Westborough, Massachusetts. All seven were released on bond and
are to appear May 4 in Albany, New York, where the criminal
complaint was filed. Two other IFCO employees were arrested in
Guilderland on criminal charges relating to fraudulent documents.
Agents executed criminal search warrants at three residences in
Guilderland where IFCO was allegedly housing unauthorized
workers. [ICE News Release 4/20/06; AP 4/20/06; New York Times
4/21/06; Indianapolis Star 4/21/06] IFCO is based in the
Netherlands with operational headquarters in Houston and Munich.
[Rocky Mountain News 4/21/06]

Over all, the raids involved criminal search warrants or what ICE
calls "consent" searches at more than 40 IFCO plants and related
sites in 27 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California,
Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New
Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia and
Utah. [ICE 4/20/06; RMN 4/21/06]

"We are cooperating fully with representatives from ICE and hope
to have this matter resolved as soon as possible," IFCO Systems
said in a statement. [Newsday (NY) 4/21/06] "It is our policy to
comply with all federal and state employment requirements," IFCO
insisted. [AP 4/20/06] At least 275 of the detained workers had
already been removed to Mexico as of Apr. 21. [NYT 4/21/06] Many
others were released and told to report for immigration court
hearings. [NYT 4/21/06; Baltimore Sun 4/21/06; Houston Chronicle
4/21/06; Charlotte Observer 4/21/06; Indianapolis Star 4/21/06]

The raids culminated a 14-month investigation conducted by ICE,
the New York State Police-Upstate New York Regional Intelligence
Center, the Social Security Administration (SSA) Inspector
General, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the
Department of Labor Inspector General, with assistance from the
Guilderland Town Police Department and Schenectady Police
Department. [ICE 4/20/06]

According to a government affidavit filed in the Northern
District of New York, ICE began the investigation in February
2005 after receiving information that IFCO workers in Guilderland
were seen ripping up their W-2 tax forms. Later investigation
found IFCO officials transported unauthorized employees to and
from work, paid rent for their housing and deducted money from
their paychecks to cover these expenses. The affidavit says IFCO
officials knowingly hired an unauthorized worker who turned out
to be an ICE informant. Recorded conversations suggest that IFCO
officials reimbursed the informant for obtaining fraudulent
identity documents.

More than half of IFCO's 5,800 workers in 2005 were using social
security numbers that were invalid or belonged to other people,
the affidavit alleges. In 2004 and 2005 the SSA sent IFCO at
least 13 letters about such discrepancies. [ICE 4/20/06]

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the raids
at an Apr. 20 news conference with Julie Myers, assistant
secretary for ICE, and Glenn Suddaby, chief federal prosecutor in
Albany. "Employers and workers alike should be on notice that the
status quo has changed," said Chertoff. "These enforcement
actions demonstrate that this department has no patience for
employers who tolerate or perpetuate a shadow economy." [ICE
4/20/06; AP 4/20/06]

Also on Apr. 20, Chertoff and Myers unveiled a new Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) "interior enforcement strategy" which
seeks "to reverse the tolerance of illegal employment and illegal
immigration." DHS outlined three goals focused on "criminal
aliens, fugitives and other immigration violators," "worksite
enforcement and compliance" and "criminal infrastructures" of
smuggling and document fraud. DHS wants "a legislative fix in
Congress" to allow ICE full access to social security data, and
is working with Congress to "build employer compliance systems."
[DHS/ICE Press Release 4/20/06]

Chertoff denied the timing of the raids had anything to do with
recent immigrant demonstrations. But Don Sherman, director of
Cincinnati Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, said: "I
think the timing is very suspicious because there are a number of
rallies coming up around the country promoting immigration
reform." [AP 4/20/06] Cristobal Hinojosa, a Houston organizer,
said plans for a May 1 nationwide boycott for immigrant rights
will go ahead. "The people are angry," he said. [HC 4/21/06] In
San Antonio, Texas, activists protested the raids on Apr. 20
outside an IFCO plant where 27 workers were arrested. [San
Antonio Express-News 4/21/06] About 25 university students joined
other activists in an Apr. 20 protest outside the Chicago
immigration office. "It's almost like a punishment. You get up,
you protest and now we're going to punish you..." said Roberto
Lopez of Pueblo Sin Fronteras. [Chicago Sun Times 4/21/06; 4/20/06; BS 4/21/06]


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