Saturday, August 12, 2006

INB 8/12/06: Raids in NY, Wisconsin, NC & Alaska

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 29 - August 12, 2006

1. Fair Raided Near Buffalo
2. Wisconsin Factory Raided
3. Workers Arrested on NC Coast
4. Fish Plant Raided in Alaska

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 now archived at


On Aug. 10, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 41 alleged unauthorized immigrant workers who had been hired by a subcontractor to clean up at "America's Fair," a county fair in Hamburg, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. The 23 men and 18 women from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and Honduras were detained pending appearances in immigration court. The raid was prompted by what Thomas DiSimone, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Buffalo, called an "excellent tip from a concerned member of the public," received late on Aug. 9. No criminal charges were immediately filed against the subcontracting company, but ICE said the investigation was continuing. [ICE News Release 8/10/06; AP 8/10/06]


On Aug. 8, agents from the ICE office in Chicago joined with Walworth County sheriff's deputies and Whitewater police in executing a search warrant at the Star Packaging factory in Whitewater, Wisconsin, southwest of Milwaukee, where they arrested the owner, Allen L. Petrie, and 25 Mexican workers, 13 of them women. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also collaborated in the operation. ICE spokesperson Gail Montenegro said the workers were taken to Dodge County Jail in preparation for deportation proceedings.

Whitewater police were to ask the Walworth County district attorney to charge Petrie with party to conspiracy to commit misappropriation of identification. Whitewater acting police chief Lisa Otterbacher said the investigation began in February, and Petrie was warned repeatedly about hiring unauthorized immigrants. Petrie was released from Walworth County Jail on a $50,000 signature bond on Aug. 9. His attorney, Frank Lettenberger, said on Aug. 10 that his client had hired the workers from a temporary agency. [AP 8/9/06, 8/10/06]

Following the raid, about 75 people, mainly family members of those arrested, gathered outside the police department looking for information. Otterbacher invited them inside the municipal building to get their questions answered about the raid. "We put a stop to the inappropriate and incorrect information that had been passed around," Otterbacher said. [Janesville Gazette 8/10/06; AP 8/9/06; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 8/10/06] At the meeting, ICE officers told the group the Star Packaging arrests were "just the tip of the iceberg," according to Otterbacher. [JG 8/10/06]

An immigration officer told the families the arrested workers would be sent "home--to Mexico." "We have been living in the United States for 20 years," responded one relative. "Our home is here, our job; we have children." In response to a question, the immigration officer suggested that the relatives should not bother hiring lawyers. "If you are an illegal alien in the United States, you can pay thousands of dollars and you know what the answer is going to be? A judge is going to send you home," said the officer. Sandra Jimenez, a legal immigrant from Mexico, asked the immigration officer to stop calling the detainees "illegal aliens." "The word alien makes me think of strange little creatures," said Jimenez. "I am not a Martian." [MJS 8/10/06]


On Aug. 8, the US Coast Guard stopped four boats taking 29 immigrant workers from Southport, North Carolina to construction jobs on exclusive Bald Head Island, where some 200 people live in luxury homes. The US Department of Justice said 22 of the immigrants were charged with illegal entry into the US, a misdemeanor, and all quickly pled guilty to the charge in federal court. One of the workers was from Canada; the rest were from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Four were juveniles, according to ICE. The Coast Guard detained four or five US citizens who were operating the boats, but it is not known whether they will be charged with a crime. ICE later placed a lien on the four boats.

The raid came after the Coast Guard noticed overloaded boats taking construction workers to Bald Head Island, and began stopping the boats for routine safety checks. When Coast Guard agents realized many of the workers had no US identification, they notified immigration agents. The two agencies cooperated, said Oak Island Coast Guard Station Petty Officer Kurt Yockel, and "within three days, we had the operation set up." [Wilmington Star-News 8/11/06; WECT 8/10/06]


On July 28, ICE agents arrested 23 young Mexican workers in a raid on the Snug Harbor Seafoods plant in Kenai, Alaska. Another two workers fled into the woods; immigration officials say they were eventually caught. The raid came after Alaska state trooper Larry Erickson visited the plant looking for a vehicle that had been in an accident. He found the driver and passengers of the car camped out with other cannery workers on the plant grounds, and asked to see their documents. The Mexicans showed the trooper valid tourist visas and said they were just visiting. The troopers then notified ICE that the Mexicans were suspected of working illegally at the plant.

The arrested workers, all between 18 and 20 years old, were transported to Anchorage, where they were put on a flight to Seattle for deportation proceedings. "They were good kids," Snug Harbor Seafoods owner Paul Dale said of the workers. "We regret the incident." [Anchorage Daily News 8/3/06]


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