Immigration News: Construction Workers Raided in Hawai'i

Immigration News Briefs October 5, 2008

1. Another Construction Raid in Hawai'i 2. Hawai'i: Workers Released Under Plea Bargain 3. Raid at Louisiana Cement Plant? 4. Texas Donut Company Pleads Guilty 5. More "Fugitive" Raids: CA, PA, DE, NJ, NY, FL, OK

1. ANOTHER CONSTRUCTION RAID IN HAWAI'I

On Sept. 22, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 21 workers at the Honua Kai construction site in Kaanapali, on the island of Maui in Hawai'i. Twelve of the workers were from Mexico, eight were from Brazil and one was from Slovakia. All were placed in deportation proceedings. The Maui Police Department assisted in the raid.

ICE coordinated the arrests with Ledcor Construction, the general contractor for the Honua Kai project. According to ICE, all 21 workers arrested in the raid worked for Global Stone Inc., a subcontractor based in Orem, Utah.

On Aug. 20, ICE agents arrested 23 people working for three different companies at the Honua Kai site, including 13 people employed by Global Stone [see INB 8/23/08]. After the August arrests, Ledcor said it sent letters to subcontractors on the project advising them to comply with labor and immigration laws. [AP 9/24/08; Honolulu Advertiser 9/24/08]

"We don't begrudge the workers who come to this country in search of an opportunity to better themselves and their families, as Hawai'i itself has an immigrant history," said Kyle Chock, executive director of the Pacific Resource Partnership, in a Sept. 23 statement. "But we are extremely concerned about employers who disregard the social and economical consequences they have on Hawai'i's economy and the workers they employ." The Partnership is a joint program of the 6,000-member Hawaii Carpenters Union, Local 745, and its 220 signatory contractors across the state. [HA 9/24/08] The Partnership has been pushing for increased enforcement and recently launched an advertising campaign on the subject of unauthorized immigrant labor. [HA 9/21/08]

*2. HAWAI'I: WORKERS RELEASED IN PLEA DEAL

Seven agricultural workers arrested in a July 7 ICE raid at an apartment building in Waipahu, Hawai'i, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges for using false identity documents to gain employment and have agreed to cooperate in a continuing investigation. In return, all seven have been released with work authorization pending sentencing dates scheduled for December and January. "Those dates might be postponed while the investigation continues," said Brandon Flores, an attorney for one of the defendants. "It's conceivable that they could be here for quite a while."

Assistant US Attorney Tracy Hino, who is prosecuting the cases, explained that under the terms of the plea agreements, the defendants "receive a benefit" of temporary release from custody and work permits for agreeing to cooperate. When sentenced they will get credit for about a month of time already served in federal detention. All have agreed to be deported when their criminal cases are resolved, Hino said. As part of their plea agreements, the defendants are forbidden to have any contact with their former employer--The Farms Inc.--or its current employees. Hino said the defendants will be supervised by the Pretrial Services Office of the federal judiciary and by ICE agents.

Initial housing was found for several of the workers at local YMCA facilities. Hino acknowledged that if they find jobs paying the minimum wage, that won't be enough to cover their housing and daily expenses. The government did get past paychecks owed to them by the Farms; lawyers involved in the case say those payments ranged from $200 to $1,200.

The seven men were among 43 Mexican workers employed by The Farms Inc. who were arrested in the July 7 raid [see INB 8/10/08]; 23 were indicted on three counts each of using false identity documents to obtain their jobs. One of the criminal cases was subsequently dismissed. The other 15 cases are pending.

US Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren, who has approved a handful of the plea deals, called them an "extraordinary" new development. Kurren said he checked with judicial colleagues on the mainland who said they'd never heard of such plea deals. "Is this kind of thing happening elsewhere in the country?" Kurren asked ICE agent Amy Garon. "Not that I'm aware of," Garon answered.

Dax Deason, a Texas attorney who is representing The Farms and its chief executive, Larry Jefts, declined to comment on the criminal cases or on the continuing federal investigation. No charges have been filed against the company or Jefts. All the defendants told agents they came across the Mexican border into the US without permission, sometimes paying more than $1,000 to smugglers, then bought phony green cards and Social Security numbers from vendors in Fresno, Stockton and other California cities for $40 to $150. [Honolulu Advertiser 9/21/08]

*3. RAID AT LOUISIANA CEMENT PLANT?

According to a Sept. 26 story from Associated Press citing information from the Southwest Louisiana newspaper American Press, ICE agents said they arrested 127 male immigrant workers from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras in an operation at Dunham Price cement and concrete plants in Westlake and Vinton, near Lake Charles, Louisiana. The workers were taken to a federal detention center in Oakdale, Louisiana, to face administrative immigration proceedings. [AP 9/26/08] [A web search turned up no further information about this raid.]

*4. TEXAS DONUT COMPANY PLEADS GUILTY

On Sept. 5, Shipley Do-Nut Flour and Supply Company Inc. pleaded guilty through its president, Lawrence Shipley III, to conspiring to harbor unauthorized immigrants. The Houston, Texas-based company agreed to pay a $1,334,000 forfeiture to the government, federal prosecutors said. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 19. Shipley Do-Nut faces a maximum fine of $500,000 and up to five years probation. As part of the plea deal, the company also agreed to revise its immigration compliance program and implement new procedures to prevent future violations of immigration laws. The company made its guilty plea before US District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. The case was prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Ryan D. McConnell, Southern District of Texas. Shipley Do-Nut Flour and Supply Company supplies baking materials and logistical support to retail stores and to 200 franchises in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Former Shipley Do-Nut warehouse manager Jimmy Rivera, current warehouse manager Julian Garcia and current warehouse supervisor Christopher Halsey pleaded guilty on Sept. 5 before US Magistrate Judge Stephen William Smith to misdemeanor charges of hiring or continuing to hire unauthorized immigrants. All three men were sentenced to six months probation. Halsey, Rivera and Garcia were fined $1,000, $1,500 and $2,000, respectively. Company president Lawrence Shipley III pleaded guilty Aug.. 28 before the same court to continuing to hire unauthorized immigrants and was sentenced to a similar probationary term and fined $6,000.

The guilty pleas are the result of an ICE criminal investigation that began in January after an employment discrimination suit against Shipley Do-Nut ended. Transcripts and other documents from that case showed the company knew it was hiring unauthorized workers, said Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Houston. On Apr. 16, ICE agents raided the company's Houston headquarters and plant and arrested 27 workers, including some who lived in properties owned by Shipley Do-Nut [see INB 4/20/08]. The $1.334 million forfeiture was equal to the value of those properties, Rutt said; the company agreed to pay the amount in lieu of forfeiting its interest in the properties. [AP 9/5/08; ICE News Release 9/5/08]

*5. MORE "FUGITIVE" RAIDS: CA, PA, DE, NJ, NY, FL, OK

In a three-week enforcement operation that ended Sept. 27, ICE fugitive operations teams arrested 1,157 immigrants in California: 436 in the San Francisco area, 420 in the Los Angeles area and 301 in the San Diego area. The operation targeted "fugitives" who have failed to comply with deportation orders and immigrants with criminal convictions. ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice said 595 of those arrested had outstanding deportation orders and 346 had criminal convictions. Those arrested come from 34 countries. [Los Angeles Times 9/29/08; ICE News Release 9/29/08]

On Oct. 1, ICE announced that its fugitive operations teams had arrested 78 out-of-status immigrants in a week-long operation in Pennsylvania and Delaware; 43 of those arrested were people the agency considers "fugitives"; of those 43, 13 had criminal records. The other 35 people arrested were in the US without permission. ICE was supported in the operation by the Federal Protective Service, the Georgetown Police Department in Delaware and the Ross Police Department in Pennsylvania. [ICE News Release 10/1/08]

On Sept. 30, ICE announced that its New Jersey fugitive operations teams had arrested 76 people in a six-day statewide operation that ended the weekend of Sept. 27-28. Sixty of those arrested were considered "fugitives"; 24 of them had criminal records. Another 16 people were found to be out of status; seven of them also had criminal records. [ICE News Release 9/30/08]

According to a news report from WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, 20 people were arrested in ICE raids over the weekend of Sept. 27-28 in the area around Sodus, just east of Rochester in Wayne County. ICE told the station its agents were after at least two "fugitives." In the process, they found and arrested other out-of-status immigrants. A woman who lives in a trailer park in Sodus, who spoke to WROC through an interpreter, said one of the raids took place there around 6am on Sept. 28. The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the agents went into her bedroom without permission as she and her two daughters watched in fear. "That's when they found my husband inside the room, and they took him out and took him," she said. [WROC-TV 10/2/08]

In a five-day operation that ended on Sept. 26, ICE fugitive operations team in Miami arrested 116 immigrants in South Florida: 42 in Miami-Dade county, 33 in Broward county and 41 in Monroe county. Of the total 116 people arrested, 74 had failed to comply with deportation orders and 42 were out of status. Thirty of the 116 were verified to be sole caregivers or as having medical concerns and were released under ICE supervision as part of the Alternatives to Detention Program after being processed for removal. The other 86 people remain in detention. Those arrested were from countries including Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Honduras, China, Haiti, El Salvador, and Jamaica. [ICE News Release 9/29/08]

From Sept. 20 through 24, ICE fugitive operations teams and other area officers arrested 63 immigrants in western Oklahoma. The arrests were made in the towns of Oklahoma City, Norman, Harrah, Mustang, Edmond, Chickasha, Jones and surrounding areas. Those arrested are from El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Ghana, Guatemala and Honduras. The agents that took part in the raids are based in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Lubbock, Texas. Of the total 63 people arrested, 45 had final orders of deportation; 18 were out-of-status immigrants encountered during the course of the raids. Nine of those arrested had criminal convictions. The Oklahoma City Police Department collaborated with some of the arrests. Two alleged gang members had nine outstanding state warrants; they were released to the Oklahoma City police to resolve their pending criminal charges. [ICE News Release 9/26/08]

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