Aliens arrested in ICE raid of plants; ‘disturbing’ document trend found
U.S.ImmigrationandCustomsEnforcementagentswhosweptthrough meat-processing plants in six states earlyonDec.12arrestednearly1,300 illegal aliens as part of an ongoing investigation into a massive identitytheft conspiracy.
The arrests culminated a 10month ICE investigation known as “Operation Wagon Train” that targeted workers at Swift & Co. plants in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, IowaandMinnesota.Thosearrested included illegal aliens from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan and Ethiopia.
“Operation Wagon Train is an outgrowth of ICE’s current worksite enforcement strategy, a comprehensive approach that focuses on how illegal aliens get to our country, the ways in which they obtain identity documents allowing them to become employed, and the employers who knowingly hire them,” Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE, said at a press conference on Dec. 13.
“Theuseoffraudulentdocuments byillegalaliensseekingemployment has been a significant problem,” she said. “In recent years, however, this fraud has evolved into a disturbing newtrend.Now,insteadofobtaining fraudulent documents with fraudulent identities, illegal aliens are buyinggenuinedocuments”usingidentities of unwitting U.S. citizens.
Mrs.MyerssaidICEinvestigators discovered in February that Swift workers had assumed the identities ofotherstocircumventemployment- eligibility screening and uncovered evidence that hundreds of illegal aliens used stolen Social Security cards and other identity documents to gain employment.
The illegals, she said, obtained thedocumentsfromavarietyofdocument rings and vendors. She described identity theft as the largest andfastest-growingcrimeintheU.S.
Swift, which sought in an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the raids, has notbeencharged.Thecompanyemploys 15,000 workers, is the nation’s third-largest beef producer and arguedthattheraidswouldcause“substantialandirreparableinjury”toits business. The suit was filed after ICE informed Swift that the agency intended to remove illegal aliens on Dec. 4.
The company, with $9 billion in sales last year, told the court that interviews it conducted with “suspect workers”priortotheraidsfoundthat between 90 percent and 95 percent were either not who their identification documents said or were not legally eligible for employment. It said 400 were terminated, quit or failed to show up.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who attended the press conference, said “illegal documents are not only used by illegal migrants, but they are used by terrorists who want to get on airplanes orcriminalswhowanttopreyonour citizens.”
Of the 1,282 workers arrested on administrative immigration violations, 65 also were charged with identity theft-related charges or other criminal violations, including illegally re-entering the U.S. after having been deported. They are being processed at locations around the country for removal proceedings.
Thosechargedwithfederalcrim- inal violations will be remanded to thecustodyoftheU.S.MarshalsService pending their criminal court proceedings before a federal judge.