On April 1, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 44 workers at the warehouses of three distribution companies—Samsung, Frontier and Imperial CSS—in an industrial park in Torrance, Calif., just south of Los Angeles. ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice said all but two of the 44 people arrested are Mexican. Kice said 17 of those arrested were released for humanitarian reasons. (Diario Hoy, LA/Chicago, April 2, 3; La Opinión, Los Angeles, April 3; Free Speech Radio News, April 2) The Mexican consulate in Los Angeles reported that its personnel were able to speak with 34 of the arrested Mexicans and offer them orientation about their legal situation. (El Financiero, Mexico, April 3) William Jarquin, the consul of El Salvador in Los Angeles, said he was informed that two of those arrested were Salvadoran, and that one of the two had been released. (Diario Hoy, April 2)
At least 11 of the Mexican workers who were arrested on April 1 were deported that same night, said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). She added that it “seemed strange” that they were “deported so quickly, because that doesn’t happen unless they have final orders of deportation, and none of these people even had the chance to talk to a lawyer.”
Salvadoran immigrant Nemesio Hernández said he was arrested on April 1 despite having valid Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Hernández explained his situation to the ICE agents but they threw him violently to the floor, handcuffed him and jailed him for seven hours, said his sister, Isabel Hernández. He was then released without so much as an apology. (La Opinión, April 3)
Miguel Angel Reyes, a Mexican immigrant who had worked for four years at Imperial CFS, described how managers there collaborated with ICE to carry out the April 1 raid: “The managers said we were going to have a meeting. They had us sit down in the lunchroom and then Immigration began to ask for California identification. They put us on the floor one by one. After about two hours they started to take everyone in the van.” Reyes said many of the workers did not try to escape because “the managers said everything was fine, that it was a routine check, that nothing was going to happen. When I turned around, all the immigration agents were right there in front of me.” (Diario Hoy, April 3)
Salas said that according to workers at the raided companies, ICE agents only checked the documents of the workers who appeared to be of Latin American origin. (La Opinión, April 3) CHIRLA organized a press conference and demonstration on the afternoon of April 1 outside the federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles where some of the arrested workers were apparently taken. The protest was attended by dozens of people, including family members of the workers arrested that morning and workers who had been arrested in a Feb. 7 raid at Micro Solutions Enterprises in Van Nuys. (CHIRLA e-mail alert, April 2; Diario Hoy, April 2; Free Speech Radio News, April 2) One woman who attended the protest, María Cruz, said her husband had been arrested on April 1 at the Amay’s Bakery and Noodle Co. factory in central Los Angeles. He had been a legal resident in the US for 25 years, but in 2001 authorities dug up a 20-year old felony case they said made him deportable. Cruz said her husband suffers from epilepsy; the family is worried that his condition will be exacerbated by the stress of detention. (Diario Hoy, April 2; Free Speech Radio News, April 2)
ICE spokesperson Lori Haley claimed the operation in Torrance was simply a routine inspection of customs bonded warehouses. “We do this type of routine audit to make sure everything is safe and sound,” said Haley. “In the course of the inspection, we found people who were in the country illegally and we arrested them.” (Diario Hoy, April 2)
The raids in the area south of Los Angeles continued on April 2 with operations at the warehouses of Nippon Express Inc. on Francisco Street in Torrance and The Trading Center in Long Beach, and at a factory in Wilmington where some 25 ICE agents detained at least 10 workers, most of them women. (Diario Hoy, April 3; La Opinión, April 3; El
Financiero, April 3; TelemundoLA.com, April 3)
Kice confirmed that the warehouse “inspections” would continue. “ICE and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] are carrying out routine inspections at import-export companies in various communities of Los Angeles… to identify any security vulnerability,” said Kice. (Diario Hoy, April 3) By April 3, as word spread about the raids, many Los Angeles-area immigrants reportedly stayed home from work. (El Financiero, April 3)
Following the February raid at Micro Solutions, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, the National Lawyers Guild and the National Immigration Law Center sought a restraining order in federal court against federal immigration officials who they said repeatedly blocked attorneys from accompanying workers during meetings and interrogations. On March 12, the two sides finalized a settlement guaranteeing that the workers arrested at Micro Solutions can be accompanied by an attorney to all meetings and interrogations. ACLU staff attorney Ahilan Arulanantham said the groups hoped that the case would set a legal precedent. “The government would have a hard time explaining why the rights of these people are different from those of others” detained in similar raids, he said. (Los Angeles Times, March 14)
Day laborers arrested in Northern California
On March 28, local police officers in Fremont, Calif., (in the Bay Area, southeast of San Francisco) carried out a sting operation against day laborers who were waiting for jobs outside a local Home Depot outlet. The Fremont Police Department cited about 15 workers for trespassing and took 13 of them who had no ID to the Santa Rita Jail to be identified, according to Detective Bill Veteran. There, the laborers were apparently handed over to ICE.
The raid was carried out in response to complaints from Home Depot, Veteran said, because some of the laborers allegedly harass customers and drink in public. “As a matter of courtesy, we alert ICE when we conduct” these kinds of operations, said Veteran. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco said it will look into whether the operation violated the Constitution and will consider legal options. (NBC11.com, April 3)
According to information received by Larisa Casillas, director of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (BAIRC), the workers were told at the time of their arrest that they would be placed in deportation proceedings. Casillas said her organization has received other reports indicating that people detained for traffic violations in Fremont are also being placed in deportation. Bay Area advocates are seeking to meet with Fremont police to discuss the issue. (E-mail message from Casillas received April 2)
From Immigration News Briefs, April 6
See our last post on the politics of immigration.