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;

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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]


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