Thursday, June 26, 2008

US Immigration News: 160 Arrested in Immigration Raid at Houston Plant; Judge Rejects Police Requirement to Check Status

June 26, 2008

160 Arrested in Immigration Raid at a Houston Plant

New York Times

HOUSTON — Federal immigration agents arrested 160 employees on Wednesday in a raid on a used clothing and rag exporting plant.

The authorities said it was the largest workplace raid ever here. Most of those arrested were from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, officials said, and 70 percent of them were women.

It was the second major raid in Houston in just over two months. Federal agents arrested 20 workers at a Shipley Do-Nuts factory on April 16.

The roundup on Wednesday at Action Rags USA, which is just north of the Houston Ship Channel, began at 7 a.m. and was conducted by about 200 immigration agents, said Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston.

It was part of more than a yearlong investigation by the agency that was prompted by accusations that Action Rags had hired illegal immigrants, Mr. Rutt said.

In addition to the 160 arrested, the plant’s employees included 2 United States citizens and 13 to 19 legal residents, Mr. Rutt said. They were released.

The company’s hiring practices are being investigated for potential criminal violations, Mr. Rutt said.

“By attacking this issue in a comprehensive, strategic way, we believe we can force the culture of corporations to change,” Mr. Rutt said.

William F. Estes, who identified himself as a lawyer for Action Rags, said the company was shocked by the raid.

“We want to abide by the law, and we’re going to abide by the law,” Mr. Estes said. “If we have an illegal employee, we don’t know it. No way. Tell us what the law is, and we’ll obey it.”

After the white immigration vans had driven away, Maria Lopez huddled across the street from the plant with friends. Four of her friends worked at the plant, Ms. Lopez said.

After one of them called, crying, at 7:20 a.m., she went to the plant, where family members and friends of other employees had gathered.

Ms. Lopez said her friends at the plant had lived in Houston for more than 10 years, but none were legal residents. She said she was worried that they would be deported.

“It’s not fair,” said Ms. Lopez, 27, a legal resident. “They’re working to support their families. This shouldn’t have happened.”

June 26, 2008

Judge Rejects Bid to Let Police Check Immigration Status

New York Times

LOS ANGELES — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to end a longstanding police policy that prohibits officers from initiating contact with people for the sole purpose of learning their immigration status.

The policy has come under scrutiny in recent months after the killing of a high school football star, Jamiel Shaw Jr., who the police say was murdered by an illegal immigrant who is a member of a gang. The victim’s parents are seeking to have the policy overturned, and a city councilman has been seeking a similar change to the directive, known as Special Order 40.

Some predominantly black gangs here are in a constant battle with members of Latino-dominated gangs, creating tensions between blacks and Latinos in South Los Angeles. In some cases, black residents with no gang affiliations have been singled out by Latino gang members and killed.

Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group based in Washington, filed a suit in 2006 on behalf of a Los Angeles resident, Harold Sturgeon, arguing that the city should not be using taxpayer money to enforce the policy, saying the order blocked cooperation between the local police and federal immigration agents.

But Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court granted a motion from the city and the American Civil Liberties Union for a summary judgment to throw the suit out, arguing that Mr. Sturgeon was unable to show that the order violated federal law or impeded immigration officials from communicating with the police.

“Special Order 40 neither mentions not refers to such communication,” Judge Treu said in his ruling. “It is not the court’s function to consider the wisdom of the enactment of Special Order 40.”

Hector Villagra, the director of the Orange County office of the A.C.L.U., said he thought the judge’s decision would “put to rest” any further challenges to the police order, which has been vigorously defended by the police chief, William J. Bratton.

Paul J. Orfanedes, a lawyer for Judicial Watch, said Mr. Sturgeon was considering an appeal.

No comments: