Saturday, April 28, 2007

INB 4/28/07: More Raids, Border Agent Charged

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 11 - April 28, 2007

1. Chicago Mall Locked Down in Raid
2. Military Contractor Raided in Oakland
3. NY: Return to Sender Hits Mid-Hudson
4. Border Agent Charged
5. Agent Spared Prison for Theft

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.


On Apr. 24, some 60 federal agents armed with rifles and dressed in bulletproof vests raided the Little Village Discount Mall on Chicago's southwest side. The agents closed off exits, locked down the mall and stopped about 150 shoppers and workers. Witnesses said as many as 16 people were taken away. Baltazar Enriquez, a construction worker who was at the mall buying shoes when the raid took place, said the agents were carrying pictures of suspects and lined people up against a wall to compare them to the photos. "It was everybody who looked Latino," he said. Marisol Iniguez, an employee at the mall, said agents kicked open bathroom doors with guns drawn. "They treated us like criminals," she said.

Word of the raid quickly spread through Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood, drawing angry community residents and immigrant rights organizers to the scene with signs, drums and megaphones. A crowd of some 300 people shut down the intersection of 26th Street and Albany Avenue for hours in a noisy protest as Chicago police directed traffic away. [Chicago Tribune 4/24/07, 4/25/07]

At an Apr. 25 news conference at the Chicago US attorney's office, Patrick Fitzgerald, US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced charges against 22 people in connection with the previous day's raid, which he said targeted a massive fraudulent ID ring run out of the shopping plaza. Fitzgerald said 12 of those charged were arrested on Apr. 24 in Chicago, though it was not clear whether the arrests took place at the mall or at one of three other raided sites. The other 10 people named in the indictment remain fugitives.

Fitzgerald was joined at the news conference by Elissa Brown, Special Agent-in-Charge of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in Chicago, Tim Viertel, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the US Secret Service, and Robert Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to an ICE news release, the Chicago Police Department and the US Postal Inspection Service also assisted in the investigation, which is continuing.

Fitzgerald defended the tactics used in the raid, saying authorities had to catch the suspects in the act and where they operated. He said the raid had "nothing to do" with the debate over immigration, or with immigrant rights demonstrations planned for May 1. When a reporter asked why authorities didn't arrest the suspects in their homes, Fitzgerald snapped back: "You're assuming we know where everyone lives, and that's a big assumption when you're dealing with people who make fraudulent identification." When Chicago immigrant rights leader Emma Lozano pressed Fitzgerald with the same question, the US attorney said the agents came in during a "shift change" of runners and salespeople where more evidence could be seized. [CT 4/25/07; ICE News Release 4/25/07]

During the raid, agents from ICE, FBI and Secret Service executed search warrants simultaneously at four locations, including the Nuevo Foto Munoz photo shop inside the Discount Mall. At a basement apartment about 25 blocks south of the mall, agents seized two computer towers, printers, scanners, a cutting board, hundreds of blank identification cards and approximately $1,300 in cash; authorities say the apartment was the primary office for the fake ID operation.

Agents also raided the residence of alleged ringleader Julio Leija-Sanchez in Oak Lawn, a suburb south of Chicago, and the residence of Elias Marquez, described by ICE as the operation's "office manager and shift supervisor," on West 64th Street on Chicago's far south side. Leija-Sanchez is charged with conspiracy to commit murder; he allegedly ordered the killing in Mexico of a competitor and was planning the killing of another competitor. At the two residences, agents seized two laptop computers and cash preliminarily estimated in excess of $200,000. ICE did not mention whether any evidence was seized at the raided mall. [ICE News Release 4/25/07]

Alderman Ricardo Munoz, who represents the 22nd ward that includes Little Village and whose father owns the Nuevo Foto Munoz shop in the Discount Mall, said agents confiscated two cameras from his father's store. No charges were filed against the photo shop's owner or employees. [CT 4/25/07]


On Apr. 20, ICE agents arrested 13 Mexican immigrant workers employed at the Eagle Bag Corporation factory in East Oakland, California. Twelve of the workers were arrested at the factory; one was picked up at a residence. The workers were taken to the ICE office in San Francisco to be interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted; they are being held on administrative immigration violations while ICE continues its investigation to determine whether any will face federal prosecution for aggravated identity theft. [ICE News Release 4/20/07; (article by staff writers for ANG Newspapers, representing six Bay Area newspapers including the Oakland Tribune) 4/24/07]

Seven of the arrested workers had used social security numbers belonging to others in order to obtain their jobs, according to ICE. The raid followed an ICE audit of Eagle Bag's employment records, which found 47 of the company's more than 70 employees had submitted counterfeit immigration documents to obtain their jobs, and that 33 of the unauthorized workers were using stolen social security numbers. ICE said Eagle Bag Corporation sought to comply with current hiring laws and is not facing any charges at this time.

The Eagle Bag Corporation makes packaging products for industry, agribusiness and the US government. On its website, the company says it manufactures "polypropylene (P.P.) woven fabric and bags" and is approved by the US Department of Agriculture to supply bags to the US government. The company supplies sand bags to the US military, and bags to the US government for use in food distribution to "Third World" countries. [ICE News Release 4/20/07] Federal contract data analyzed by OMB Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit government watchdog organization, indicates Eagle Bag had $53.1 million in federal contracts from fiscal year 2000 through the first quarter of fiscal year 2006.

ICE Special Agent Jennifer Holman said she wasn't sure "how we gained the intel on this particular company," but it's possible Eagle Bag was targeted for investigation because of its "critical infrastructure" as a military supplier. The arrests didn't result in any children left without caretakers, said Holman: "We definitely aren't trying to take people away from their children at this point." [ 4/24/07]

During the first six months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2006, ICE apprehended 2,763 unauthorized immigrants in worksite operations. In the previous fiscal year, ICE logged 3,667 worksite apprehensions, , a more than three-fold increase compared to fiscal year 2005. So far this fiscal year, criminal charges have been filed against 527 people in worksite operations, compared with 718 for all of fiscal year 2006. [Houston Chronicle 4/23/07; ICE News Release 4/20/07]


On April 4, ICE agents searched apartments and stopped people on the street in the mid-Hudson community of Valatie, New York, arresting eight out-of-status immigrants. In nearby Chatham, ICE arrested two men on the street. ICE spokesperson Mike Gilhooly verified that there were 42 arrests in the Capital District of New York over the week of Apr. 2 as part of "Operation Return to Sender," a nationwide program targeting immigrants who have failed to comply with deportation orders. However, only 18 of the 42 people arrested had already been ordered removed by an immigration judge; the other 24 were just picked up on suspicion of being out of status. Six of those arrested reportedly had criminal records. ICE received support from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, and state police were also on the scene.

Immigrant rights supporters protested the raids with a demonstration on April 6 in Albany. Leaders from ARISE, a congregation-based social justice organization, said dozens of immigrants had been arrested over the past week in Albany, Latham, Ravena, Chatham and Valatie. The protesters accused ICE of using "Gestapo tactics" and called on elected officials to halt the raids. Another activist compared the situation of immigrants today to that faced by Japanese Americans in World War II, and said the movement to help the detainees has built on the tradition of the Underground Railroad.

Bail was set at $5,000 for at least some of the detainees, and at least four raised the funds and were released beginning on Apr. 9. On Apr. 11, ICE agents were reportedly seen in the town of Hudson, but no arrests were reported there. [The Independent (Hudson Valley) 4/12/07; Troy Record 4/7/07]

The mid-Hudson area newspaper The Independent interviewed a local resident (who asked not to be identified) who knows two of the men arrested in Chatham, both of them Mexicans who have worked at restaurants. "They want to be legal--I feel bad for them--they want to pay their taxes," said the resident. "I feel horrible about it--they work their ass off, they want to see their families and they can't." [The Independent 4/12/07]

In March, 20 immigrants from Central America were arrested at a motel in Colonie, just north of Albany, after some of them were pulled over by police. They were working on a construction project. [The Independent 4/6/07]


On Apr. 23 in Arizona, Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer filed a felony complaint against US Border Patrol agent Nicholas Corbett, charging him with four counts of homicide: first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide. On Jan. 12, Corbett shot to death Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera from the southern Mexican state of Puebla, about 150 yards north of the border between Bisbee and Douglas [see INB 2/4/07, 3/4/07]. The shooting occurred while Corbett was trying to apprehend Dominguez and three others who had entered the country without permission.

While initial news reports said the agent who shot Dominguez had been placed on paid administrative leave, in fact Corbett returned to full duty three days after the shooting. On Apr. 24, a day after being charged, he was removed from active duty and assigned administrative work. He has not been arrested.

A concurrent civil-rights investigation by the FBI has not been completed, said Deborah McCarley, FBI spokesperson in Phoenix. The FBI continues to send information, including the felony complaint filed in Cochise County, to the US Justice Department, which will decide whether to pursue charges, said McCarley. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 4/25/07]


On Apr. 24, former ICE agent Anthony Reyes was sentenced for stealing $4,000 in cash from the family of an immigration detainee who died at a detention facility in Broadview, Illinois. Reyes pleaded guilty last November to embezzlement and admitted he lied to investigators who were checking into what happened to the money. US District Judge John Darrah sentenced Reyes to five years' probation, ordered him to pay full restitution and fined him $1,000. Reyes worked as an agent for ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), for over a decade.

According to court records, Reyes was working at the detention facility in Broadview when an immigrant from Cameroon died there--allegedly from complications from a pre-existing medical condition. A supervisor instructed Reyes to send the money via wire transfer to the dead man's relatives in Cameroon. Repeated complaints from the family in Cameroon led to the discovery of the theft, Judge Darrah revealed in court.

Reyes resigned from ICE in August 2006, and was charged with the theft in September. (It was not clear from available sources when the detainee died, or when the theft took place.) "There's no words to explain how sorry I am for my actions," said Reyes, a former Marine who served in the Gulf War. Reyes' lawyer, Michael Monico, called the theft "a spontaneous decision" by Reyes at a time of financial difficulties. "It has cost his job, his career in law enforcement and unfortunately led to the breakup of his marriage," Monico said. [Chicago Tribune 4/24/07; Chicago Sun-Times 9/23/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

INB 4/22/07: Raids in South, Midwest

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 10 - April 22, 2007

1. Bridge Projects Raided in South
2. Janitors Arrested at Illinois Meat Plant
3. North Dakota Dairy Farm Raided
4. Colorado: Raid at Potato Farm
5. Iowa: Concrete Factory Raided
6. San Diego: Party Rental Co. 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.


On Mar. 29, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 77 immigrants--76 men and one woman--in a raid targeting bridge construction sites in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas. The raid culminated a five-month ICE investigation into alleged criminal misconduct on the part of Tarrasco Steel, a company based in Greenville, Mississippi, launched after the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General confirmed that the majority of the company's employees were using unauthorized social security numbers. ICE has accused Tarrasco Steel owner Jose S. Gonzalez of falsifying and altering information on I-9 Employee Eligibility Forms.

In its investigation into Tarrasco Steel, ICE also found that the Massman Construction Company had employed unauthorized immigrant workers in New Orleans. That company is now under investigation as well.

ICE special agents executed federal search warrants on the Tarrasco Steel business office complex in Greenville, and arrested 36 workers at a Greenville construction site for the Mississippi-Arkansas bridge. Another seven workers were arrested at a construction site for the US-90 bridge in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was not clear where the remaining 34 workers were arrested, but at least three other construction projects were affected by the raids: the reconstruction of the Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; the I-40 Seismic retro fit in Memphis, Tennessee; and the Louisiana 1 bridge in Leeville, Louisiana. ICE billed the raid as focusing on "critical infrastructure protection." [ICE News Release 3/29/07; WJTV 3/30/07]

ICE said it will seek criminal prosecution of up to 10 immigrants who used counterfeit or fraudulent social security information. The rest will be charged with being in violation of US immigration laws, and will remain in ICE custody awaiting the outcome of their cases.

Michael A. Holt, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in New Orleans, thanked a number of federal, state and local agencies for their "outstanding cooperation" in the operation: the US Coast Guard, the US Department of Labor and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP); in Mississippi, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI), Mississippi Highway Patrol; Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Harrison County Sheriff's Office and the Biloxi Police Department; in Louisiana, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office; the Jefferson Parish Levee Police, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office and the Greater Lafourche Harbor Police; in Arkansas, the Lake Village Police Department and the Chicot County Sheriff's Department; and in Tennessee, the Memphis Police Department and the Memphis Police Department's Harbor Patrol. [ICE News Release 3/29/07]


On Apr. 4, ICE special agents executed a criminal search warrant and 27 criminal arrest warrants at Quality Service Integrity Inc. (QSI), a cleaning service operating within the Cargill Meat Solutions Plant in Beardstown, Illinois, under contract by Cargill. Neither Cargill Meat Solutions nor its employees have been charged with any crime. The court-authorized warrants allowed ICE agents to search for evidence and to apprehend any unauthorized immigrant workers encountered at the facility.

In the operation, ICE detained 49 immigrant workers on immigration violations and arrested two managers and 11 employees on criminal charges of aggravated identity theft. The other 14 employees named in the criminal arrest warrants, who are also charged with aggravated identity theft, were not apprehended. The investigation began in January and is ongoing, said ICE.

QSI Beardstown plant manager Gerardo Dominguez-Chacon and QSI personnel administrator Maria del Pilar Marroquin de Ramirez are charged with aggravated identity theft and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft in connection with alleged hiring of unauthorized immigrants. In the criminal complaint, filed March 30 and unsealed by the court following the Apr. 4 arrests, ICE claims that from Dec. 18 through Mar. 22, Dominguez-Chacon and Marroquin de Ramirez knowingly hired illegal aliens to work at QSI, and that Dominguez-Chacon provided assumed identities to several new employees and provided others with information about how to obtain false documents. Dominguez-Chacon was arrested at his home in Beardstown; all the other arrested workers were picked up during third-shift hours at the plant. The 13 people with criminal warrants were scheduled to appear in federal court in Springfield, Illinois, on April 5.

Ten of the workers arrested for administrative violations were released on humanitarian grounds on Apr. 4 because they have minor children at home; another person was released who requires kidney dialysis, according to ICE assistant field office director Chris McDaniels. The remaining arrestees were to be processed at an ICE facility in Broadview, Illinois, and likely detained in Chicago area jails pending the outcome of their cases. [ICE News Release 4/4/07; State Journal-Register (Springfield) 4/5/07] Of the total 62 people arrested, 54 are thought to be from Mexico, five from Guatemala, two from El Salvador and one from Argentina.

About 10 officers with the Beardstown Police Department were involved in the raid, said police chief Tom Schlueter, although Schlueter was the only one from the department who entered the plant. Beardstown mayor Bob Walters responded to the raid by urging Illinois senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, to "quit giving us lip service and come up with [an immigration] bill that we can all live with." "Quit bickering in Washington, D.C.," added Walters. "Get off Wall Street and get on Main Street and see what's really going on in this world." [SJ-R 4/5/07]


On Apr. 10, ICE agents backed by state and local law enforcement officers arrested 13 of the 20 employees at Sandhills Dairy in Towner, North Dakota, accusing them of being in the US illegally. [Dakota Farmer 4/12/07] Mike Zimmerman, one of the principals of Sandhills Dairy, said agents searched every building on his ranch, and even put his son in handcuffs as he came out of a shower. Zimmerman said the agents threw at least one worker to the ground. [KXMB-TV (Bismarck) 4/11/07] In an appearance on KFGO Radio's "News and Views" show and in interviews with the Minot Daily News and the Dakota Farmer, Zimmerman also said officers kicked in doors to buildings and homes on the farm; damaged furniture; forced his daughter from her home into the snow in her pajamas and with an ill child in her arms; and held a gun to the head of one of his long-time friends and demanded that he produce a birth certificate. In a press conference on Apr. 11 at the federal building in Fargo, US Attorney Drew Wrigley denied Zimmerman's accusations. [DF 4/12/07]

Two of the arrested employees appeared in court in Minot on Apr. 13 to face criminal charges for "knowingly possessing and using fake identification cards." Investigations are continuing on the other 11 employees, including one woman who was released for humanitarian reasons to care for a child. [Dairy Herd Management Magazine 4/16/07; KXMC-TV (Minot) 4/13/07]

The dairy milks about 700 cows three times a day and also raises its own calves; Zimmerman said if the company can't replace the workforce it will likely be forced to sell the animals. The dairy received state and federal aid in the past as part of economic development efforts. Sandhills was operating on Apr. 11 with the labor of family members and volunteers. [DF 4/12/07]


On Apr. 17, ICE agents raided the Worley & McCullough Inc. potato farm and processing plant in Monte Vista, Colorado. After interviewing about 70 workers, ICE arrested 19 workers on administrative immigration violations and three other employees, including the general manager and a company foreman, on charges of obtaining and possessing false identifications and aggravated identify theft. Two of the three arrested on criminal charges are US citizens; the third is a legal permanent resident. ICE agents also seized employee personnel files, four computers, a computer hard drive from the company surveillance camera, and various correspondence relating to hiring, recruiting, and identity documents.

Of the 19 workers arrested administratively, three were from Guatemala and 16 were from Mexico, according to ICE. They included eight women, 10 men and a boy under the age of 18. The juvenile was handed over to the custody of Mexican authorities on Apr. 18. Two women were conditionally released for humanitarian reasons, said ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok. The other detainees were transferred to an ICE contract detention facility in Denver.

Rusnok said a tip led ICE to launch an investigation into hiring practices at the farm. During the 11-month investigation, an ICE special agent posing as an unauthorized immigrant paid one of the employees now facing criminal charges to provide him with false identification documents so he could get a job at Worley & McCullough. The six-count criminal indictment dating from November 2006 was unsealed late on Apr. 18, according to ICE. [Denver Post 4/18/07; Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 4/20/07; ICE News Release 4/19/07]

The Mexican consul and advocates from Denver traveled to the San Luis Valley late on Apr. 17 to address the crisis, and immigrant rights supporters held vigils in Alamosa and Denver. "There have been immigration raids all over the state and we knew it was just a matter of time before they came here," said Flora Archuleta, executive director of the San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center. "We tried to prepare the best we could but you are never really prepared." [DP 4/18/07]

Colorado's farm industry expressed concern about the raid. "We have a chronic labor shortage here," complained Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Executive Committee in Monte Vista. "Legal immigrants are even afraid to come to the state because they feel Colorado has jumped out in front of the rest of the nation and targeted them... Spanish-speaking radio in other states [sends out the message] that you shouldn't come to Colorado." [RMN 4/20/07]


On Apr. 19, ICE agents raided the Iowa Prestressed Concrete factory in West Burlington, Iowa, to serve warrants on 17 workers accused of visa fraud and falsifying a Social Security number. Another worker not named in the warrants was also arrested. One of the 18 workers facing charges was arrested at a West Burlington residence; the rest were arrested at the plant. The detainees were loaded into a bus and brought to Davenport for court appearances. An additional five workers were apparently also picked up at the plant; they are not charged with a crime but face deportation hearings in Cedar Rapids. Federal officials did not charge Iowa Prestressed Concrete with any violations, noting that the company "cooperated fully with the arrests." [Associated Press 4/20/07; The Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA) 4/21/07]


On Apr. 19, ICE agents raided the San Diego offices of Classic Party Rentals Inc. and arrested nine workers on immigration violations. The five women and four men were to be returned to Mexico, said ICE spokesperson Lauren Mack. The company performs work at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, where immigration authorities recently began reviewing contractors' employee records as part of a crackdown on high-security workplaces. An audit of Classic Party Rentals found 30 of the company's 105 San Diego employees were not authorized to work in the US. The workers gave the company fake legal resident cards when they applied for jobs, Mack said. Authorities do not plan to pursue charges against the company. Since 2003, immigration authorities in San Diego have targeted companies that work on military bases, airport tarmacs and other high-security workplaces. A recent audit of 93 contractors at Camp Pendleton Marine base resulted in 168 arrests. [AP 4/20/07]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)