Sunday, July 22, 2007

INB 7/22/07: Union Rep Arrested, More Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 18 - July 22, 2007

1. Union Rep, Workers Arrested at Swift
2. DC Area Restaurant Raided
3. NY: Raid at Upstate Summer Camp

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 July 10, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 25 current or former employees of the Swift & Company meat processing firm. Twenty of those arrested were sought on federal and state warrants; most were picked up on the job, while others were detained in their homes. ICE arrested 18 workers on criminal charges relating to identity theft and administrative immigration violations in six locations where Swift plants are located: Marshalltown, Iowa; Grand Island, Nebraska; Worthington, Minnesota; Greeley, Colorado; Hyrum, Utah; and Cactus, Texas.

In Marshalltown, ICE also arrested Braulio Pereyra-Gabino, an official of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) who represents Swift employees, on criminal charges for "harboring illegal aliens"; and Christopher Todd Lamb, assistant director of human resources at the Marshalltown plant and a 17-year Swift employee, on a harboring charge as well as misprision of a felony. [ICE News Release 7/11/07; DesMoines Register 7/13/07, 7/22/07; The Militant Vol. 71/No. 29, 8/6/07] In addition, two Swift supervisors who were not named on the warrants were arrested in Greeley. One was picked up by ICE at the Greeley Swift plant for immigration violations. The other was arrested by the Greeley Police Department for an outstanding arrest warrant involving traffic violations. Another three people who were not sought in the warrants were arrested after apparently being discovered during the raids.

"Swift is to be commended not only for its cooperation during yesterday's enforcement action, but for its continuing efforts to improve its hiring practices in order to ensure a legal workforce," ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers said July 11.

The enforcement operation was assisted by the Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General, four US Attorney's Offices and two District Attorney's Offices. [ICE News Release 7/11/07] ICE spokesperson Tim Counts called the raids a "continuation of the same investigation" that resulted in the arrests last Dec. 12 of 1,297 workers at six Swift facilities on administrative immigration violations [see INB 12/15/06, 12/21/06, 1/5/07, 1/12/07]. According to ICE, 274 of those arrested in December have since been criminally charged for identity theft or use of fraudulent documents. [ICE News Release 7/11/07; The Militant 8/6/07] ICE officials said 649 of the 1,297 Swift workers detained last December have already been removed from the country. [DMR 7/13/07]

In a statement about the latest raids, the UFCW said this time ICE agents did not appear to use the "same level of intimidation and overkill" they used during the raids last December. The UFCW "supports law enforcement efforts that abide by the law and respect the rights of workers," the union said. [AP 7/10/07] Dan Hoppes, president of the UFCW local at the plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, said the July 10 raid there "was done the right way this time. Not like the last time...." [The Militant 8/6/07]

The preliminary hearing for Lamb, the human resources manager, is set for July 23. According to the Des Moines Register, Lamb is accused of coaching a worker on how to avoid detection and to apply for a job using a false name and documents. Evidence for the charges came from conversations between Lamb and Alejandro Vasquez-Avina, a Swift worker who collaborated with ICE after being picked up in the December raid. ICE monitored conversations between Lamb and Vasquez via a concealed microphone worn by Vasquez. Later, Vasquez applied for a job at the Swift plant with an ICE-provided valid Social Security card and a Texas birth certificate in the name of Anthony Gomez. He was rehired. [DMR 7/13/07; The Militant 8/6/07]

Kirk Martin, migration and refugee services director for Catholic Charities in Des Moines, said the latest raids show ICE plays on people's fears and lack of knowledge of their rights to enforce a broken immigration system."If ICE can't do its job without relying on snitches, there's no better proof that there is a need for a different, forward-looking and just immigration system," said Martin. [DMR 7/13/07]

Union officials and worker advocates are especially troubled by the federal grand jury indictment against Pereyra, vice president of UFCW Local 1149, for allegedly harboring undocumented immigrants. "Nobody on our payroll has ever been arrested previously" in this type of case, said UFCW spokesperson Jill Cashen. "This is a criminal case, not an administrative legal problem, so we're concerned." Typically, union representatives do not recruit, hire or fire workers, which makes the charges puzzling, immigration experts said. Details of the case against Pereyra-Gabino are in a sealed court file. Regional immigration officials and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa declined to elaborate on the harboring charge against him, or the policy under which he is being prosecuted. [DMR 7/22/07]


On July 12, ICE arrested four members of a family that owns popular chicken restaurants in the Washington DC area on charges of employing and harboring undocumented immigrants, money laundering and structuring deposits to avoid financial reporting requirements, according to a criminal complaint unsealed the same day. Francisco Carlos Solano and his wife, Ines Solano, were released after being arraigned in US District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland on July 12. Consuelo Solano and Juan Faustino Solano, siblings to Francisco Solano, were taken into custody by immigration agents in Las Vegas and were to be arraigned in Greenbelt on July 16. All four are US citizens. The three Solano siblings were born in Peru; Ines Solano is originally from Colombia.

Nine employees of the family's El Pollo Rico restaurant in Wheaton, Maryland, were detained and will be placed in deportation proceedings, authorities said. According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, the Solanos housed many of the workers at houses in Kensington and Wheaton. Federal agents seized more than $2 million in cash and jewelry from the Solanos' residences and vehicles, authorities said.

At least four Montgomery County police officers helped federal agents conduct the investigation, according to the affidavit written by ICE special agent Brian Smeltzer. The officers' role was to interview El Pollo Rico employees to gather information about their identity and employment, according to the affidavit. The workers provided the officers--some of whom speak Spanish--their names, dates of birth and other information that was later used by federal agents to establish that many did not have legal immigration status. "We were interviewing witnesses to a crime," said Lt. Ron Hardy of the Montgomery County police special investigations division. "No action was taken against any of these people when we interviewed them. I don't know if any of those who were interviewed were eventually arrested" by immigration agents, he said. [Washington Post 7/13/07]

Montgomery County Police were also present during the raid. "The trust that has been built for the last 15 years between the community and the police department is right now in serious risk," warned Gustavo Torres, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Casa of Maryland. [The Gazette (Gaithersburg, MD) 7/18/07]


Early on July 10, ICE agents arrested 31 immigrant workers doing construction and maintenance jobs for two subcontractors at a children's summer camp in Gilboa, New York, just north of the Catskill mountains and southwest of Albany. The camp is owned by Oorah Inc., a Jewish nonprofit educational organization. ICE spokesperson Michael Gilhooly said on July 11 that the investigation was continuing.

The arrested workers were from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Palestinian territories. Five were living at the Oorah camp, authorities said; the rest lived at the Belvedere Country Inn, a three-story restaurant, bar and hotel complex in nearby Stamford, and were transported to the camp every day in two vans. Earlier in the summer, all were living in the camp. Eliyohu Mintz, a director of Oorah, said on July 10 that the organization was not aware that the workers lacked employment authorization. [The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY) 7/12/07]

The ICE worksite enforcement investigation developed from information uncovered by the Schoharie County Sheriff's Office during routine patrols. ICE agents conducted surveillance and determined that the workers were living at two locations and being transported to their jobs in vans. Officers from the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Buffalo worked with ICE special agents to carry out the arrests. All the arrested workers be charged with being illegally present in the US, and will be detained pending immigration proceedings. Troopers from the New York State Police and officers from both the Delaware County Sheriff's Office and the Schoharie County Sheriff's Office helped ICE with the raids. [ICE News Release 7/10/07]


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