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;

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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]


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