clear
Wednesday August 15th, 2018 1:09AM

Immigration raids in Nebraska, Minnesota target businesses

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A large federal law enforcement operation conducted Wednesday targeted businesses in Nebraska and Minnesota that officials say knowingly hired — and mistreated — immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

The investigative arm of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement — Homeland Security Investigations — led the operation that saw about a dozen businesses and plants raided and 17 business owners and managers indicted for fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

Of those, 14 were taken into custody Wednesday and three were still being sought. Authorities also arrested more than 130 workers at various businesses, busing them to Grand Island, Nebraska, to be questioned and processed.

Most of the arrests occurred in northern Nebraska and southern Minnesota. Several of the businesses were in O'Neill, Nebraska, a town of about 3,000 about 160 miles (260 kilometers) northwest of Omaha. Officials said they were still looking to take three owners or managers into custody as part of the operation.

Special agent in charge Tracy Cormier described the operation as one of the largest in Homeland Security Investigations' 15-year history. Between 350 and 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together on the arrests, she said.

The focus of the operation is unusual in that it targeted business operators for arrest. Most immigration raids have targeted workers suspected of being in the country illegally.

"The whole investigation was initiated, basically, because we knew that these businesses were cheating these workers and cheating taxpayers and cheating their competition," Cormier said.

The businesses engaged in a scheme that used fraudulent names and Social Security numbers to employ people in the country illegally, she said. The businesses used "force, fraud, coercion, threat of arrest and/or deportation" to exploit the workers, Cormier said. The business that hired out the immigrants also forced the workers to cash their paychecks with that business for an exorbitant fee, officials said, and withheld taxes from workers' pay without paying those taxes to the government.

"It kind of reminds us of the revival of the old 'company store' policy, where it used to keep the coal miners indebted to the company for all kinds of services ... like check cashing," she said.

Also arrested were 133 workers suspected of being in the country illegally, according to ICE. Some will be issued notices to appear before an immigration judge and released, while those with criminal backgrounds will remain in ICE custody.

The raids come as President Donald Trump's administration has been carrying out high-profile immigration enforcement actions against employers.

Dozens of workers were arrested at a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee in April, followed by agents rounding up more than 100 employees two months later at an Ohio gardening and landscaping company.

Immigration officials have also beefed up audits of companies to verify their employees are authorized to work in the country. Officials opened nearly 5,300 employer audits since January, many after audits at 100 7-Eleven franchises in 17 states in January.

On Wednesday, investigators served warrants at Elkhorn River Farms, hydroponic tomato grower O'Neill Ventures, La Herradura restaurant and grocery store El Mercadito, all in O'Neill. A private ranch outside O'Neill also was searched.

No phone number could be found for El Mercadito. Calls to the other businesses went unanswered or messages left were not returned.

Pork producing giant Christensen Farms saw search warrants served at its headquarters in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, its truck wash facility in Appleton, Minnesota and a producer plant in Atkinson, Nebraska. Spokeswoman Amber Portner said the company was cooperating with agents. She said she knew of no arrests at any of the company's locations Wednesday.

Other businesses raided were in Stromsburg, Ainsworth, Bartlett and Royal, all in Nebraska.

Civil rights organizations in Nebraska were quick to denounce Wednesday's operation.

"The ACLU condemns this ongoing campaign of misery that targets immigrants, disrupts local businesses and separates families," Rose Godinez, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, said in a written statement released Wednesday morning after news reports of the raid at O'Neill Ventures.

The effect of such operations are the same whether they target businesses or immigrants, said Jeff Sheldon, spokesman for advocacy group Nebraska Appleseed.

"This is going to leave widespread fear and damage in the community," he said. "You got businesses that are directly affected. You've got neighborhoods that are directly affected. You'll have kids tonight coming home to a house where one or more of their parents are gone. This is pain that can last for generations."

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Local/State News, Politics, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Prosecutor: Man at compound trained kids for school shooting
Prosecutors say in court documents that the father of a missing Georgia boy was training children at a New Mexico compound to commit school shootings
7:55PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Court upholds ex-Stanford swimmer's sex assault conviction
An appeals court has rejected a former Stanford University swimmer's bid for a new trial and upheld his sexual assault conviction
7:37PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Immigration raids in Nebraska, Minnesota target businesses
A large federal law enforcement operation has targeted businesses in Nebraska and Minnesota that officials say knowingly hired _ and mistreated _ immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally
7:29PM ( 32 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Gallo, Gallardo stay hot, Rangers beat Mariners 11-7
Joey Gallo homered twice and drove in four runs, Yovani Gallardo won his fourth straight start and the Texas Rangers held off the Seattle Mariners 11-7.
7:47PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Deputies: Arrest made in lemonade stand stickup
North Carolina authorities say juvenile arrested in lemonade stand stickup of 9-year-old entrepreneur
7:42PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Zimbabwean opposition official denied asylum, being deported
Zimbabwean opposition official is denied asylum in Zambia, now expected to face arrest at home
7:25PM ( 36 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Michigan attorney set to be first Muslim woman in Congress
Rashida Tlaib's opposition to President Donald Trump began while he was still candidate Trump and before she decided to run for Congress
6:51PM ( 1 hour ago )
Venezuela ruling party cracks down on opposition lawmakers
Venezuela's pro-government constitutional assembly has stripped two opposition lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution, accusing them of having roles in a drone attack that authorities say was an attempt to kill socialist President Nicolas Maduro
6:48PM ( 1 hour ago )
Man upset by wife's illness kills them both at hospital
Police say a man who said he wanted to end his ailing wife's suffering shot her to death in her bed in a suburban New York hospital and then killed himself.
6:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split
Brad Pitt says he has given estranged wife Angelina Jolie Pitt $1.3 million and lent her millions more since their separation two years ago
5:01PM ( 3 hours ago )
Father blames 'stand your ground' in son's parking-lot death
Father of slain black man says Florida's polarizing "stand your ground" self-defense law is to blame for his son's killing
4:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
4 years after Ferguson, white prosecutor ousted by black man
Four years after the deadly police shooting that triggered racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a black city councilman has scored an election upset and ousted the white prosecutor criticized over his handling of the case
4:30PM ( 3 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
NCAA adopts college basketball reforms for draft, recruiting
The NCAA is carving out a limited role for agents to work with college basketball players and is changing key parts of its rules-enforcement system as part of numerous reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal
7:03PM ( 58 minutes ago )
PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup spot on line at Bellerive
2 tournaments in 1: Americans get last chance to qualify for Ryder Cup team at PGA
7:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Who's in, out in small business tax break? It's complicated
Who's in and out in small business tax break? Even with new rules, it's complicated
5:41PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
US stock indexes wobble as oil prices sink energy companies
U.S. stocks are mixed as banks and technology companies edge higher but a drop in oil prices drags down energy companies
2:54PM ( 5 hours ago )
CVS Health tops 2Q forecasts, downplays help from rebates
CVS Health beat Wall Street's second-quarter expectations, helped by a rise in prescriptions, but a nearly $4 billion charge from one of the company's businesses weighed on results
2:10PM ( 5 hours ago )
Sinclair, Tribune in talks to overcome regulatory hurdles
The Sinclair broadcasting company says it's in talks with Tribune Media on how to overcome regulatory hurdles to its $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune's 42 TV stations.
1:45PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Prosecutor: Man at compound trained kids for school shooting
Prosecutors say in court documents that the father of a missing Georgia boy was training children at a New Mexico compound to commit school shootings
7:55PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Court upholds ex-Stanford swimmer's sex assault conviction
An appeals court has rejected a former Stanford University swimmer's bid for a new trial and upheld his sexual assault conviction
7:37PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Huge Los Angeles gas leak leads to $120 million settlement
A California gas utility has reached a settlement with state and local governments to pay $120 million after the nation's largest known release of climate-changing methane drove thousands of people from their homes
6:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Emergency declared ahead of Charlottesville anniversary
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the city of Charlottesville have proactively declared a state of emergency ahead of the one-year anniversary of a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia that left a woman dead and dozens more injured.
6:47PM ( 1 hour ago )
Palestinian-American candidate is source of West Bank pride
The Michigan primary victory of Rashida Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, triggered an outpouring of joy in her ancestral village on Wednesday
6:41PM ( 1 hour ago )