ICE raids continue in western states

On the afternoon of Feb. 7, more than 100 ICE agents raided the headquarters of Micro Solutions Enterprises (MSE), a manufacturer of computer toner and inkjet cartridges in Van Nuys, California. ICE executed a federal search warrant at the site and arrested 130 MSE employees on administrative immigration violations. ICE also arrested eight current and former MSE employees on federal criminal charges for providing fraudulent information to gain employment. The search warrant remains under seal because the investigation is ongoing. (ICE news release, Feb. 8; AP, Feb. 7)

All 130 workers arrested on administrative violations were from Latin America: 87 from Mexico, 24 from El Salvador, eight from Guatemala, four from Peru, four from Honduras and three from Colombia. ICE interviewed those arrested to determine if they had any medical, caregiver, or other humanitarian issues; 36 women and 10 men were released on humanitarian grounds to await their hearings before an immigration judge. Another 65 men and 19 women were detained. Most were due to be transferred to an ICE contract detention facility operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Lancaster, California.

In its news release about the raid, ICE said it had set up a 24-hour toll-free hotline for family members of the arrested workers and had handed out flyers about the hotline to MSE workers and family members who came to the plant inquiring about relatives. “In addition, ICE contacted representatives of several prominent Hispanic community groups in the Los Angeles area to ensure they were aware of the enforcement action and had information about the toll-free number,” said ICE in the news release. (ICE news release, Feb. 8)

Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said lawyers who rushed to the scene of the raid were not allowed to talk to detainees. The ACLU is offering free legal representation to those arrested. “We’re very concerned that people who were detained be given the opportunity to meet with a lawyer who can advise them of their rights,” said Arulanantham. (AP, Feb. 7)

Utah: 57 arrested at metal factory
On the morning of Feb. 7, ICE agents arrested 57 immigrant workers in a raid on Universal Industrial Sales Inc. in Lindon, Utah. The raid was carried out by some 100 ICE agents with the cooperation of state and local police. All the arrested workers were men from Latin America: 51 were from Mexico, two from Argentina, two from Uruguay, one from El Salvador and one from Honduras. During ICE’s “processing” of the arrested workers, which lasted until early the next morning, US Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division investigators arrived to ensure those arrested were paid for work they had already performed for the company before their arrest. ICE also said it interviewed workers to determine if they had any “humanitarian issues,” and that representatives from the Utah Health and Human Rights Project and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services were present during the processing. In the end, only one man was released pending a hearing before an immigration judge. The other workers remain in ICE custody at the Utah County and Weber County jails. The company had a total of more than 100 employees.

ICE officials forwarded about 30 cases to the Utah County Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution for offenses such as aggravated identity theft, forgery and document fraud. The Utah County Attorney’s Office is expected to decide within a week which cases to accept for prosecution. Some cases involving individuals who reentered the US after being previously deported will be presented to the US Attorney’s office for potential prosecution on felony charges.

Also on Feb. 7, Utah US Attorney Brett Tolman announced the unsealing of two indictments in Salt Lake City charging Universal Industrial Sales and its human resource director, Alejandro Urrutia-Garcia, with harboring unauthorized workers and encouraging or inducing them to stay in the US. Tolman said the investigation that led to the raid and indictments used confidential informants and an undercover agent, and is ongoing. Universal Industrial Sales is charged with 10 counts of “harboring illegal aliens” in an indictment which alleges the company concealed, harbored or shielded the workers from detection for commercial advantage between January 2003 and December 2006. Urrutia-Garcia, a naturalized US citizen who was arrested during the Feb. 7 raid, is charged with two counts of encouraging or inducing unauthorized immigrants to remain in the US. Urrutia-Garcia pleaded not guilty in federal court on the afternoon of Feb. 7. He was released from custody. A four-day trial is set to begin April 14. (ICE news release, Feb. 8; Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 9; Deseret Morning News. Feb. 8)

The raid sparked panic in the local Latino community. About 150 people gathered on the night of Feb. 7 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Orem, Utah, for a mass and meeting. Jose Luis Uribe, who has worked at Universal for two years, said he was detained but was let go when he proved his legal status. “You feel so bad for all your co-workers who were arrested,” he said at the meeting. “They asked me for help but I couldn’t do anything.” Uribe said federal officials separated workers into two groups: employees who had papers and those who did not. Those without papers were tagged at the wrist with red or yellow bands. “They put a red band on the people from Mexico and a yellow band on those from South and Central America,” Uribe said. “They [ICE agents] entered running. We thought there was a fire or something.” (SLT, Feb. 8)

The raid left many families with young children suddenly without an income. During the meeting at the church, representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Division of Child and Family Services and Workforce Services met with families to evaluate if they qualified for public assistance. (Deseret Morning News, Feb. 8)

Universal Industrial Sales produces highway guard rails, bridge railings and structures that hold overhead metal signs for highways throughout the US as well as parts of western Canada and Mexico. It is a major supplier to construction companies and also does business directly with the Utah Department of Transportation. (SLT, Feb. 8)

From Immigration News Briefs, Feb. 10

See our last post on the politics of immigration.