Saturday, July 5, 2008

INB 7/5/08: Raid at Maryland Painting Company

 Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 15 - July 5, 2008

1. Raid at Maryland Painting Company
2. Supervisors Arrested in Postville, Houston
3. Nearly 500 Arrested in Anti-Gang Raids
4. Al-Arian Indicted for Non-Cooperation

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On June 30 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, about 75 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents joined 50 county police officers in raiding the offices of Annapolis Painting Services Inc. and 15 single-family homes that authorities said were owned by the company and rented to employees. Agents arrested 50 or 51 workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria and Panama on administrative immigration violations. Five women, including one who is pregnant, were allowed to remain free on humanitarian release pending removal proceedings because they are sole caregivers. The other 10 women and 35 or 36 men were detained. The company has more than 100 employees, county police said. [Baltimore Sun 7/1/08; Washington Post 7/1/08; (Capital Gazette Newspapers) 7/2/08 from AP]

Agents also seized five bank accounts, 11 vehicles and the raided homes as part of a criminal investigation into hiring and harboring unauthorized immigrants. The company's owners were not arrested, but authorities said the investigation was continuing. [Baltimore Sun 7/1/08]

Scot Rittenberg, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for ICE in Baltimore, said the agency received a tip about Annapolis Painting Services and has been investigating for 18 months. [ 7/1/08] Rittenberg said the operation included "the execution of 11 search warrants, 5 seizure warrants for bank accounts, 11 seizure warrants for vehicles and 15 forfeitable properties, along with the administrative arrest of 45 undocumented aliens." In addition to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, ICE was assisted in the operation by the US Attorney's Office in Baltimore, the Annapolis City Police Department, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Baltimore City Police Department. [ICE News Release 6/30/08] The Anne Arundel police force has an officer permanently posted at ICE's Baltimore City office. [Baltimore Examiner 7/1/08]

Four immigrants showed reporters from the Baltimore Sun damage they said was caused during the raid in a sparsely furnished, middle-class residence in the Hillsmere Shores community. A door frame had been splintered and paperwork was strewn about a room. A woman, who said she was five months pregnant, said she had been handcuffed and shoved as her boyfriend was arrested. His family said he had a work permit that had recently expired. [Baltimore Sun 7/1/08] Another report said doors at a raided home on Harbor Drive showed evidence of being kicked in during the raid; it was not clear whether this was the same home in Hillsmere Shores or a different raided residence. [Baltimore Examiner 7/1/08]

About 100 people rallied in front of the ICE office in Baltimore on July 1 to protest the raid. Demonstrators included members of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition, the Silver Spring-based CASA de Maryland and local churches. Some carried signs critical of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, who has taken a hard stance against unauthorized immigrants. Many relatives of those arrested were afraid to attend the rally, according to CASA de Maryland. [Baltimore Examiner 7/2/08]

Nicolas Ramos, a legal immigrant who owns the Baltimore restaurant Arcos and is a member of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs, spoke out at the rally about his family's experience during the raid. He said his cousin Veronica Ramos called him at 6am sobbing, telling him that armed immigration agents had broken down her apartment door and hauled away her husband, Eduardo Delgado, as their three children hid under their beds. "She's scared, the kids are scared," said Ramos. "They don't know what they are going to do." Delgado "is a good man, hardworking and a wonderful dad," Ramos said. "This is devastating."

"Every person affected yesterday has a family," said Jessica Alvarez, vice president of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition. "Today we are here to show that every person has a voice and has a community behind them. This is unjust, and our voices need to be heard."

Jonathan Greene, a Towson immigration attorney who has offered to represent the arrested workers for free, said he has not been able to obtain the search warrants authorities used in the raid. "No one said they received any kind of warrant," he said. "We are very concerned about what happened here."

ICE agent Rittenberg insisted that warrants were issued, and denied claims by Liza Zamd, a staff attorney with CASA of Maryland, that agents had placed an arrested worker's 18-month-old child in the custody of a neighbor without parental consent. The father was later released, according to Zamd. [Baltimore Sun 7/2/08] Zamd also said a four-year-old girl saw ICE agents handcuff her father and force him to kneel in their home while they searched for two workers from the painting company who live there. Zamd said the girl's father is a US citizen and wasn't charged. [ 7/2/08 from AP]


On July 3, ICE arrested supervisors Juan Carlos Guerrero Espinoza and Martin De la Rosa Loera at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant owned by Aaron Rubashkin in Postville, Iowa. Federal prosecutors said they had also issued an arrest warrant for Hosam Amara, described by workers as a plant manager. In interviews following the May 12 raid, several workers had said Amara was a floor manager with more authority than line supervisors. The arrests came some six weeks after a May 12 raid in which ICE arrested 389 rank-and-file workers at the plant--a majority of them Guatemalans--and forced most of them to accept five-month prison sentences in plea bargains on criminal charges for presenting false identification to get hired [see INB 6/2/08].

In a federal criminal complaint unsealed on July 3, workers cited anonymously said Guerrero was running a business obtaining fraudulent immigration documents. According to the complaint, the workers said that in the days before the raid, Guerrero told them in a meeting that "they needed new IDs and Social Security numbers to continue working at the company." Guerrero collected $200 and a photograph from each worker, promising to provide new documents, the complaint says.

"The arrest of two low-level supervisors, while a start, barely scratches the surface of this company's bad behavior," said Scott Frotman, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which has tried to organize the plant. "What about the allegations of worker abuse? Does anyone really believe that these low-level supervisors acted alone without the knowledge, or even the direction, of the Rubashkins and other senior management?" [New York Times 7/4/08]

Residents of Postville, still shell-shocked from the May 12 raid, were frightened by the June 23 appearance in Postville of two plainclothes ICE agents who arrested a single undocumented immigrant, Eduardo Ixen. ICE spokesperson Tim Counts confirmed that Ixen, a handyman who worked with real-estate firm GAL Investments, was detained based on a tip. Counts said Ixen was likely not among the Agriprocessors workers named in the affidavit associated with the case. [New America Media News Report 6/26/08; Des Moines Register 6/23/08]

On July 2, ICE agents arrested the owner and four supervisors at Action Rags USA, a Houston, Texas used clothing and rag company where the agency had arrested 166 workers on June 25 [see INB 6/29/08]. Following the arrests, federal charges were unsealed against the five for conspiracy to harbor unauthorized immigrants, inducing unauthorized immigrants to come into the US, and illegal hiring practices including knowingly accepting false work documents. The five people arrested are Action Rags USA owner Mabarik Kahlon; his partner and uncle, Rasheed Ahmed; manager Cirila Barron; resource manager Valerie Rodriguez; and warehouse supervisor Mayra Herrera-Gutierrez. Ahmed, who has health problems, was freed on his own recognizance; the others were held in federal custody until their initial hearing the next day in Houston federal court. [Houston Chronicle 7/2/08; ABC 13 KTRK 7/3/08 from AP]

On July 3, Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley ordered the release of Kahlon, Ahmed and Rodriguez after they each posted $50,000 bond. ICE filed immigration detainers against Barron and Herrera-Gutierrez, making them ineligible for bail; both are Mexican nationals who are allegedly present in the US without permission. [Houston Chronicle 7/3/08]


ICE agents arrested or helped arrest 489 people in "Operation Community Shield" raids announced between June 2 and July 2, targeting foreign-born alleged gang members in Kansas, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia and Texas.

On July 2, ICE and the Wichita Police Department announced the arrest of 22 "transnational gang members and their associates" in Wichita, Kansas. Thirteen of the total were arrested on July 1–presumably for administrative immigration violations--and are being held in ICE custody pending removal to their countries of origin. These include three brothers, all minors with "serious juvenile criminal histories," who were arrested with their mother and will be voluntarily returned to Mexico, according to ICE. Nine of the gang members were arrested "during the planning phase of the operation" based on outstanding state arrest warrants and are being held in state custody on criminal charges including burglary, theft, assault, drive-by shootings, weapons violations and various misdemeanor charges. All nine are under immigration detainers so that if they're released from state custody, they'll be detained by ICE. All 22 people arrested are from Mexico, and allegedly are associated with the Vato Loco Boys, Sureno 13, Players for Life, and North Side Gangsters. [ICE News Release 7/2/08]

In a three-day operation ending June 27 in the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area, ICE Gang Investigation Unit special agents arrested 20 people the agency described as "known gang members" and 21 it referred to as "identified gang associates" from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. [In past sweeps, the agency has implied that "gang associates" may include family members cohabiting with the alleged gang members--see INB 10/28/07.] According to ICE, those arrested were affiliated with the MS-13, Sur-13, Latin Kings, and Vatos Locos street gangs. ICE said five search warrants were served and "numerous cases are being presented for federal and/or state prosecution."

The operation involved collaboration with agencies including the Virginia State Police, Virginia Office of the Attorney General, US Attorney of the Eastern District of Virginia, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Chesterfield County Police Department, Chesterfield County Probation and Parole, United States Secret Service, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and the US Postal Inspection Service. [ICE News Release 6/27/08]

In a statewide New Jersey operation carried out from June 15 through June 21, led by the ICE Office of Investigation in Newark, agents arrested 76 "gang members" and 20 "gang associates" from El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. The gang members allegedly belong to the MS-13, La Mugre, LA-13, DDP, Trinitarios, Mexican Mafia, Los Pitufos, Vatos Locos, Bloods and Crips street gangs. According to ICE, only three cases are to be presented for federal prosecution, while seven people were arrested on state charges and 30 of those arrested were merely "unlawfully present" in the US. Three weapons were seized along with what ICE described as "gang paraphernalia." Agencies collaborating in the sweep included the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, West New York Police Department, Newark Police Department, New Brunswick Police Department, Passaic Police Department, Union City Police Department, Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, and Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. [ICE News Release 6/23/08; The Record (Hackensack, NJ) 6/24/08]

In a two-day operation announced June 12, ICE agents arrested, or in some cases assisted in arresting, 22 people in the area of Brockton, Massachusetts. Those arrested included 11 "gang members and associates" and 11 other people accused of federal and/or state criminal violations, including administrative immigration violations, who were encountered during the operation. Of the 22 people arrested, 16 are US permanent residents whose criminal convictions may render them eligible for deportation, according to ICE, while five are living in the US without permission and one had a prior deportation order. The arrested immigrants are from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Haiti. The operation was carried out in partnership with the Brockton Police Department, the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office, the US Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts, ATF, the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance, and the police departments of the Massachusetts cities of Boston, Fall River, Stoughton and Taunton. [ICE News Release 6/12/08]

In a statewide Georgia operation culminating on June 7, ICE agents arrested or helped to arrest 127 nationals of Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala who were living in Dalton, Savannah, Albany and the Atlanta metropolitan area. Those arrested included 122 people the agency identified as gang members, and five it identified as gang associates. Seven people were to be prosecuted on federal charges of illegal re-entry after deportation, and 19 were arrested for state charges or had outstanding arrest warrants. Two weapons were seized during the operation.

Cooperating agencies included the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the ATF, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI); the city police departments of Atlanta, Canton, Cartersville, Chamblee, Dalton, Forest Park, Gainesville, Kennesaw, Marietta, Powder Spring, Roswell, and Sandy Springs; the county police departments of Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Gwinnett County and Henry County; and the sheriff's offices of Atkinson County, Bartow County, Cherokee County, Coffee County, Douglas County, Forsyth County, Gwinnett County, Hall County, Rockdale County, Tift County and Whitfield County. [ICE News Release 6/10/08]

In a six-day ICE-led operation announced on June 8, 149 people were arrested in the Texas cities of Houston, Conroe, Galveston, Sugar Land, Bryan, Richmond, Beaumont and Corpus Christi. According to ICE, 67 of those arrested were "gang members and their associates," allegedly affiliated with 22 different street gangs. Of the total 149 people arrested, 32 were US citizens arrested on outstanding warrants. The 117 non-citizens arrested in the sweep were from Belize, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Pakistan. Seven of those arrested were females. Of the 67 people who were identified as "gang members and associates," 20 were arrested on outstanding state arrest warrants and turned over to local authorities; one was arrested on an outstanding federal drug arrest warrant. The other 46 people arrested were present in the US without permission; 28 of them are facing federal criminal charges for illegal entry or illegal re-entry after deportation.

The Air and Marine branch of US Customs and Border Protection provided air support for the operation. Other agencies assisting the operation included the Houston Police Department's Gang Task Force and the police forces of the cities of Beaumont, Conroe, Corpus Christi, La Porte, Orange, Port Arthur and South Houston; the sheriffs' offices of Brazos, Fort Bend, Harris, Jefferson and Montgomery counties; and US Postal Inspectors, FBI, ATF, and the US Attorney's Offices for the Southern and Eastern Districts of Texas. [ICE News Release 6/8/08]

From June 2 to 5, agents operating out of ICE's office in San Antonio, Texas arrested 32 "gang members and associates," including 23 in San Antonio and a total of nine in Austin, Laredo and Harlingen. Of the 23 detained in San Antonio, 18 were arrested on state criminal charges while seven were arrested on federal charges. Agencies participating in the operation included: San Antonio Police Department, ATF, US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas, US Marshals Service's Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, Bexar County Sheriff's Department and Bexar County District Attorney's Office. [ICE News Release 6/6/08]


On June 26, Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian was charged in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia with two counts of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury which is investigating whether Islamic charities in Northern Virginia were financing terrorists. Al-Arian has already been jailed for a year on civil contempt charges for refusing to testify. If convicted of the new charge he could face additional jail time; there is no maximum or minimum penalty for criminal contempt. Al-Arian has been jailed by the federal government since Feb. 20, 2003, and in ICE custody since Apr. 11 of this year; he suspended a 52-day hunger strike on Apr. 23 in the hopes of being deported soon [see INB 4/27/08, 3/29/08, 3/24/07, 6/10/06].

Lawrence Barcella, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Washington lawyer, said civil contempt is generally used to compel people to testify in investigations, and criminal contempt is designed to punish them if they have refused. He said it is "not unheard of but very unique" to seek criminal charges when a defendant has already served time for civil contempt.

Al-Arian's attorney, Jonathan Turley, said his client has given prosecutors two detailed affidavits saying that he knows of no criminal activity involving the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)--one of the agencies under investigation in northern Virginia, which prosecutors apparently believe Al-Arian has ties to--and that the government has acknowledged he is a "minor witness." Turley said the latest indictment "is a continuation of a long campaign of abuse that has drawn international criticism." [Washington Post 6/27/08]

On June 30, Al-Arian was arraigned before the federal court of Judge Leonie Brinkema. Brinkema set a deadline of Aug. 8 for all pretrial motions, and a trial date of Aug. 13, although defense attorneys had requested it be set for September. Al-Arian was also ordered moved to the Alexandria Detention Center while awaiting trial. The June 30 hearing was delayed for four hours because Al-Arian had to be transported from Portsmouth, Virginia, over 200 miles away. Turley requested that his client be released on bond. Brinkema said she would consider releasing Al-Arian on bond, pending his interview with pre-trial services and a bond hearing that has yet to be scheduled. [Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace News Release 7/2/08]

For background information, updates and action alerts about Sami Al-Arian's case, see


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