300 arrested in immigration raid in five states
IRVING, Texas (AP) ” Nearly 300 people were arrested Wednesday in immigration and identity theft raids at Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants in five states.
More than 100 people were arrested on immigration violations in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Moorefield, W.Va., with 45 arrests in Mount Pleasant, Texas, on charges of false use of Social Security numbers.
More than 25 people face administrative charges of immigration violations in Live Oak, Fla. They will also face identity theft or document fraud charges. More than 20 were arrested in Batesville, Ark., on federal warrants for alleged document fraud or identity theft.
“We knew in advance and cooperated fully,” said Ray Atkinson, a spokesman for the Pittsburg, Texas, company.
Pilgrim’s Pride faces no charges, he said.
The raids were part of a long-term investigation, officials said. Plants were raided in Mount Pleasant, Texas, Batesville, Ark., Live Oak, Fla., Chattanooga, Tenn. and Moorefield, W.Va., authorities said.
Atkinson said the company went to ICE agents with information about identity theft at the Arkansas plant. The company uses a federal database to check identity documents of new employees, but that wouldn’t stop a person from using a real, but stolen ID, he said.
The company has about 55,000 employees and operates dozens of facilities, mostly across the South and in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The poultry raids were the largest of several immigration enforcement actions taken across the country Wednesday.
Agents arrived before dawn at a Houston doughnut plant and arrested almost 30 workers suspected of being in the country illegally. Robert Rutt, the agent in charge of the Houston ICE office, told the Houston Chronicle some of the people arrested lived at the Shipley Do-Nuts dough factory, a four-block plant that includes a dormitory for workers.
In Buffalo, N.Y., federal law enforcement officials announced the arrest of a local businessman and 10 associates accused of employing illegal Mexican immigrants in seven restaurants in four states.
The restaurants’ owner, Simon Banda, who also uses the name Jorge Delarco, of Depew, N.Y., is charged with conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants. Banda appeared in court without a lawyer Wednesday and was given until Friday to hire one. Magistrate Judge Hugh Scott ordered him detained until then, based on the government’s assertion that Banda is a Mexican citizen who is in the United States illegally.
Six of Banda’s restaurant managers, including two of his brothers, also made initial appearances. Javier Banda of Depew was released on $5,000 bail. Honorio Banda was held because he is allegedly in the country illegally.
One other manager was released on bail, another was held because of outstanding warrants and the others were detained because of their illegal status.
Authorities also arrested at least 45 illegal immigrants during the early morning raids in western New York, Bradford, Pa.; Mentor, Ohio; Wheeling and New Martinsville,
W.Va.; and Georgia. Authorities said the workers were forced to staff the Mexican restaurants for long hours with little pay to work off smuggling fees and rent.
In Atlanta, a federal grand jury indicted 10 people from suburban Atlanta employment agencies on charges they placed illegal immigrants in jobs at Chinese restaurants and warehouses in six states. The agencies allegedly developed a network to “recruit and exploit” undocumented workers, said Kenneth Smith, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Atlanta.
Between October 2006 and April 2008 the agencies advertised their services and charged immigrants a fee for finding a job, without requiring any proof that the workers were allowed to work in the U.S, prosecutor David Nahmias said.
The restaurants in Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama allegedly often provided housing and paid workers in cash to avoid taxes, Nahmias said.
The charges are not related to immigration raids at Pilgrim’s Pride plants.
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