Sunday, March 18, 2007

INB 3/18/07: California County Responds to Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 7 - March 18, 2007

1. CA: Marin County Responds to Raids
2. Arizona Construction Company Raided

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


At dawn on Mar. 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the low-income Canal neighborhood of San Rafael in Marin County, California. The raids, part of ICE's national "Operation Return to Sender," were supposedly based on 30 warrants for people who had prior deportation orders. The ICE agents returned to the neighborhood early on Mar. 7 and carried out more arrests; at least one similar raid took place in nearby Novato over Mar. 6-7. ICE agents apparently returned to San Rafael for the third consecutive day on Mar. 8 to make further arrests. San Rafael police were notified that ICE would be making arrests near the city's downtown area between 7 and 8 a.m., said police spokesperson Margo Rohrbacher. Some of the immigrants may have been deported the same day they were arrested, an immigration official said on Mar. 8. [Marin Independent Journal (Novato) 3/7/07, 3/8/07, 3/9/07]

Federal officials declined to reveal the number of people arrested in the raids until pressed by the office of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who sent an aide to meet with ICE. Congressional officials said on Mar. 15 that ICE had arrested 65 people in Marin County during the week of Mar. 5, and had deported 23 of them. "For every one [with a warrant] they picked up, 12 [were arrested who] are not named on the warrant," said Canal Alliance Executive Director Tom Wilson. That means it's more about people not named in the warrant," he said. "That's really scary--that tells me they're just using the warrant as a way to get in a door into a house." [MIJ 3/15/07]

Rey Reyes said his 7-year-old nephew, US-born citizen Kevin Reyes, was with his family in an apartment where officers made the arrests. "They put handcuffs on him; he is only 7," Reyes said through an interpreter. At Bahia Vista Elementary School, Principal Juan Rodriguez reported that two students were separated from their parents because of the raid, and that 77 children did not come to school on Mar. 7, likely out of fear. On a typical day, eight to 10 students are absent. Rodriguez said many of the missing students returned to class the next day, Mar. 8, leaving only 11 absent. School representatives and community members have been meeting with roughly 20 children directly affected by the raids, and have been escorting students from their front doors to the classroom, Rodriguez said. [MIJ 3/7/07, 3/8/07] San Rafael Superintendent of Schools Laura Alvarenga said many San Rafael teachers rode the bus with their students on Mar. 7 to help reassure them. [MIJ 3/14/07]

In the pre-dawn hours of Mar. 9, about 75 people held a three-hour candlelight vigil in the Canal neighborhood, spreading out in teams at several intersections in order to protest the ICE raids, show support for immigrant residents, and witness and document any further early-morning ICE actions. [MIJ 3/9/07, 3/10/07; Canal Alliance website,] Rev. Carol Hovis, executive director of the Marin Interfaith Council, which organized the protest, said the vigilers would return at 5 a.m. every weekday morning over the subsequent week. [MIJ 3/9/07]

Later in the afternoon on Mar. 9, more than 100 people chanted and held signs at another protest in San Rafael against the raids. [MIJ 3/10/07] On Mar. 12, hundreds of people again protested the raids with a march from St. Raphael's Church in San Rafael to a "know-your-rights" meeting at Pickleweed Park Community Center. [Report posted on Canal Alliance website, 3/13/07; KGO News (San Francisco) 3/13/07]


On the morning of Mar. 9, ICE served 11 federal search warrants at a number of sites in Sierra Vista, Arizona, in a raid targeting construction company Sun Drywall and Stucco Inc. Nearly 200 agents took part in the sweep; the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Sierra Vista Police Department and the Border Patrol assisted with the arrests. Eight individuals were sought on federal criminal charges of hiring and harboring out-of-status immigrants. Agents arrested the president of the company, the human resources manager, three foremen and one other worker at the company's headquarters; another company manager was arrested later in the day on a local highway, and one other manager was charged but remained at large on Mar. 10. Investigators said those charged conspired with fraudulent-document makers to hire and protect immigrants who lacked work authorization.

Another three people were arrested the same day on state charges of identity theft for allegedly making and selling fraudulent documents in connection with the case. Also on Mar. 9, agents arrested 10 Mexican nationals on immigration violations--seven who worked for Sun Drywall, one who worked for a different framing company, and two women who happened to be at a raided site. During the course of the 16-month investigation, agents arrested 32 other people allegedly working without authorization for Sun Drywall. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 3/10/07] US Customs and Border Protection, US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, and the Arizona Fraudulent Identity Task Force (AFIT) collaborated in the probe. [ICE News Release 3/9/07]

The investigation of Sun Drywall began in November 2005 after officials noticed that a number of deported immigrants claimed to have worked at the company, said Alonzo Pena, ICE special agent in charge in Phoenix, at a Mar. 9 afternoon press conference at the federal courthouse in Tucson. In December 2005, during an audit of the company's employee records, agents found 11 workers who were using fraudulent green cards, according to the criminal complaint against the company. ICE agents told the company president and human resources manager to fire the workers, but they continued to employ them, the complaint states. Investigators also found other workers using fraudulent green cards with numbers that belonged to other people. [ADS 3/10/07]


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