Sunday, August 31, 2008

Man's deportation leaves wife's transplant at risk (WTNH-CT)

Man's deportation leaves wife's transplant at risk

Aug. 30, 2008 4:45 PM

New Britain (AP) -- Congressman Christopher Murphy has stepped in on behalf of a New Britain woman who could lose her chance at a kidney transplant if her husband is deported to his native Poland.

Federal officials say 43-year-old Andrzej Nowakowski has violated residency rules because he was convicted and imprisoned on robbery and drug charges while living in the U.S.

The couple learned Friday that their appeal to stop his deportation had been rejected.

His wife, Vivian, says doctors have told her she can't have the kidney transplant unless her husband will be home to care for her during her recovery.

Vivian Nowakowski has been on dialysis for 14 years for end-stage renal failure, and her husband was her caregiver before his arrest and imprisonment.

Congressman Murphy has written to homeland security officials, asking them to consider the case's special humanitarian circumstances.

14 people arrested in deportation sweep (San Diego Union-Tribune)

14 people arrested in deportation sweep

August 31, 2008

ESCONDIDO – Police and federal agents arrested 14 people during a two-day deportation sweep throughout the city last week, Escondido police said.

Authorities on Wednesday and Thursday were looking for people with criminal records who had been deported and re-entered the United States illegally, police Lt. Mike Loarie said.

Eight people were arrested on suspicion of illegal re-entry and turned over to the Department of Homeland Security. One person jailed on suspicion of being drunk in public also was held for immigration authorities.

Five other people were arrested on suspicion of drug charges not related to any immigration offenses. Officers also found one stolen car and impounded two other vehicles, Loarie said.

60 demonstrate in Forks against Border Patrol checkpoints, detention of two youths (Peninsula Daily News)

60 demonstrate in Forks against Border Patrol checkpoints, detention of two youths

By Jim Casey and Leah Leach, Peninsula Daily News

Sunday, August 31, 2008

FORKS — About 60 people protested Saturday in the wake of U.S. Border Patrol detention of Forks residents, including a recent high school honors graduate and a 16-year-old boy.

"Border Patrol Terrorizes Children!" read one sign held outside the Transit Center on South Forks Avenue.
"Honk if you support immigration," said another.

"Edgar lost his chance," said a sign held by Nenita Bocanegra.

"He was sent back to Mexico," Bocanegra said. "I got sad . . . and we made a sign for him."

Edgar Ayala, a Forks High School athlete who graduated with honors in June, was arrested during a Border Patrol checkpoint near Forks on Aug. 20, said Forks Mayor Nedra Reed.

Since then, he has been returned to his father in Mexico, she said Friday.

He had been in the United States since infancy, she added.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Carlos Bernabe was in federal detention in the Seattle area, said Border Patrol, spokesman Michael Bermudez in Seattle.

Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle, said she was not certain which facility the youth was in.

The boy could be released to a relative, Reed said, but his stepmother "would not go to pick him up because she was an illegal.

"I found out that his family, out of fear, have returned to Mexico," she said.
Bernabe's father was in Mexico, she said, and the teenager had lived in the United States.

"He's scheduled to appear before an immigration judge to determine what to do with this child," Reed said.

"What I've been trying to do for the last two days is get hold of someone and find out if they will release him to someone in town.

"I have someone who will take care of this child."

Stepped up enforcement
The Border Patrol is stepping up enforcement with checkpoints at three places on the North Olympic Peninsula, said Joseph Giuliano, deputy chief border patrol agent last week.

One is on U.S. Highway 101 at Milepost 198 between Forks and Beaver. Checkpoints reportedly were set up there on Aug. 20 and last Monday.

Another location is on state Highway 104 near the Hood Canal Bridge. Border Patrol agents ran a checkpoint there for about five hours on Aug. 22.

The third location — which had yet to be used last week — is on U.S. Highway 101 south of Discovery Bay in Jefferson County, Giuliano said.

At the checkpoints, agents are looking for terrorists and illegal immigrants, he said.

Agents also arrest people who have outstanding warrants.

Giuliano said the Peninsula is receiving additional attention from the Border Patrol because its long, remote coastline makes it difficult to secure by boat.

"When we can't cover all that ground up front, we rely on checkpoints," he said.

Said Bocanegra, "I want it to stop, because there's a lot of people who have been separated and who are scared.

"There are a lot of kids that are scared, that have seen families separated," she said.

"Some kids don't want to go to school because they are afraid."

The arrests of the two young people again brought to a head again the issue of illegal immigration to the West Ends of Clallam and Jefferson Counties.

Here, migrant workers harvest salal for florists as avidly as loggers fall trees for mills.

Tanya Ward, one of the organizers of Saturday's protest, is a member of the Hoh tribe who told Peninsula Daily News that illegal immigrants are treated with the same unfairness she said is shown to Native Americans.

"I don't think it's right for them to be taken out of their homes when their children are here and they're not doing anything wrong," she said.

Sanctuary city?

Ward said she wanted to propose that Forks declare itself a sanctuary city.

Such cities — an undetermined number of them across the country, starting with San Francisco in the 1980s — discourage municipal employees from enforcing or aiding enforcers of federal immigration laws.

To that degree, Forks already is such a city, Reed said, because city police "are not immigration officers. We are not employing any immigration activities on our own."

However, Forks officers will provide assistance and backup when asked to do so by Border Patrol officers or agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security.

"That's our mandate; that's our job; that's our role and responsibility," she said.

More poignant and perhaps more pressing, Reed said, is the fear that pervades Forks's Hispanic community as more Border Patrol officers take up duties on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Forty-five officers currently work out of the Port Angeles headquarters.

Although it is against the agency's policy to search for illegal immigrants in schools and churches, some parents are afraid to leave their homes to buy school supplies for their children, Reed said, or to send them to school when classes resume.

Others have taken to shopping for groceries in the small hours of the morning to avoid what they fear are roaming Border Patrol officers, she said.

Afraid she'll lose 'Auntie'
Reed said she'd had a 7-year-old girl in her office Friday, weeping because she feared her "Auntie" would be arrested and deported.

And while the mayor said the parents of such children place them at risk, "My God, what happens to the kids?"

Concerning declaring Forks a sanctuary city, Reed said no one officially had posed the idea to her or the city council.

"I'm not sure what our legal standing would be," she said.

But she was certain the issue of illegal immigration has divided Forks citizens.

"You have those people who are trying very hard to live up to their moral perception that they need to do something to help these folks," she said.

Other residents are in favor of deporting illegal immigrants immediately, she said.

Reed angry at Congress
As for the Border Patrol, Bermudez said agents have no choice but to arrest people they find are in the country illegally.

"We are obligated to take action," he said. "We swore an oath.

"It would be malfeasance if we did not do our job. It would subject us to punitive action."

Forks was the scene of a march by 700 people protesting immigration policies on May 1, 2006.

Since then, its city council has had presentations from the Border Patrol on its policies and performance.

Reed, however, is angry — at Congress.

"We need a federal immigration policy," she said."Our federal government and our Congress have got to do something about illegal immigration.

"We hired them to do a job. We hired them to make the tough decisions."

As for the fate of Carlos Bernabe, Reed said Friday, "I've been waiting for a call all day and I've received nothing. It's so frustrating.

"We'll begin the process again on Tuesday."

ICE urges immigrants to flee Gustav (AP c/o Biloxi Sun-Herald)

ICE urges immigrants to flee Gustav
Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008
The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are urging illegal immigrants to flee the Gulf Coast before Hurricane Gustav's arrival, telling them not to be worried about checkpoints.

Agency spokesman Brandon Montgomery says there are no immigration enforcement operations, and no immigration enforcement checkpoints associated with evacuations.

He says the Department of Homeland Security's top priorities in any emergency "are lifesaving and life-sustaining activities."

ICE conducted the largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history last week at Howard Industries, Inc., in Laurel. The raid caused panic among Hispanic families in the area after federal agents rounded up nearly 600 plant workers suspected of being in the country illegally.

Friday, August 29, 2008

29 Illegal Aliens Arrested Including 20 for Identity Theft (BorderFire Report)

29 Illegal Aliens Arrested Including 20 for Identity Theft

Friday, 29 August 2008

Phoenix, AZ. - Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies raided two locations of a Mesa landscaping business after receiving a tip from a former employee that the manager of Artistic Land Management is knowingly hiring dozens of illegal aliens.

After developing the information, deputies determined that of the 127 employees working at the business, 69 of them had employment discrepancies consistent with identity theft, a class 4 felony.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that the investigation began in April of this year and so far has culminated in the identification of 19 Hispanic surnamed males employed at the Mesa business who have clearly used social security numbers not assigned tothem.

“The impact that illegal immigration has in our communities coincides with the downturn in our economy,” Arpaio says. “In tough times, U.S. citizens need jobs, not illegals.”

Four of the social security numbers used belong to deceased people, three of the men used social security numbers where the victims were identified and notified by the Sheriff’s Office. The remainder are suspected to either be using stolen or non existing social security numbers.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas commented about the case saying, “Our office will review the evidence and determine if criminal or civil offenses have occurred here. In Maricopa County, we enforce the law even when it’s politically incorrect to do so.”

Search warrants were executed this morning, Arpaio says, on the businesses two locations: 6534 South Rowen Street in Mesa and 2231 West Main in Mesa.

Deputies seized personnel files, time cards, employee rosters and work assignments for examination into the company’s hiring practices.

Interviews with a business manager as well as a daily work assignment bulletin board shows some of the businesses clients include the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, and Chandler as well as the Maricopa County Housing Authority.

The owner of the business is Jose Hernandez. Artistic Land Management has been in business for several years.

The witness in the Sheriff’s case informed deputies that for months, she repeatedly advised Hernandez that the social security office was inquiring into social security number discrepancies and that Hernandez told the payroll department employee to“throw the letters away.”

When Hernandez was confronted by Sheriff’s deputies at today’s raid, he refused to talk except through his attorney.

There were 70 workers present this morning at the Main Street location. Of those, 29 illegal immigrants were arrested, 20 of whom will be booked on state felony charges of identity theft.

S.F. gives teen drug suspect to immigration (San Francisco Chronicle)

S.F. gives teen drug suspect to immigration

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008

(08-27) 17:57 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco court's ruling that a 14-year-old drug suspect from Honduras should be considered an abandoned youth - entitled to shelter rather than deportation - was thwarted Wednesday when the city turned him over to federal immigration authorities.

Juvenile Court Commissioner Abby Abinanti concluded Monday that the youth, in custody accused of dealing crack in the Tenderloin, should be treated within the social welfare system and not as a criminal offender.

In doing so, she sided with defense attorneys who argued that the boy had no family in Honduras, fled to this country to escape gang beatings, turned to drug dealing to survive and deserved a chance to seek asylum while in foster care.

The ruling set up a conflict with Mayor Gavin Newsom's administration, which has begun turning over juvenile illegal immigrants held on felony charges to federal authorities.

The city's Juvenile Probation Department had long resisted such handovers under its interpretation of San Francisco's sanctuary city law barring cooperation with federal authorities in rounding up illegal immigrants.

However, Newsom announced he had changed course last month after The Chronicle reported that the city was flying offenders to their homelands to avoid formal deportation, in possible violation of federal law, and housing some juveniles in unlocked group homes from which several escaped.

Had probation authorities obeyed Abinanti's order, the Honduran youth would have gone into a group home rather than face possible deportation and would have been given a chance to seek asylum as a victim of abuse or neglect. Juvenile Probation Department officials had told the mayor that they feared he would walk away from a group home.

City held boy till ICE arrived

Rather than put the boy in a group home immediately after Abinanti's ruling, probation officials honored a 48-hour hold placed on the youth by federal immigration authorities. Agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency picked up the boy at Juvenile Hall on Wednesday morning, agency officials said.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the boy will undergo deportation proceedings but will not be in ICE custody. He will be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The mayor's office said the case had been resolved appropriately.

"It appears our new policy is working the right way," said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Newsom.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office represented the boy in court, had no comment.

Abinanti issued her ruling after a social services official and a city attorney's representative on an advisory panel concluded that the youth, identified only as Francisco G., should be entitled to receive social welfare services and should be dealt with outside the criminal system.

Prosecutors and the Juvenile Probation Department's representative on the panel objected, citing the youth's immigration status.

The Honduran youth was arrested July 17 on suspicion of dealing crack cocaine, a felony.
Officers saw him spit out a rock of crack and then hand it to a dealer, who sold to undercover officers, police reports say.

Boy's harrowing story

Deputy Public Defender Lisa Katz said Francisco G. had no criminal history and had come to the United States this year after the boy's mother left him behind when she moved to Spain.

The youth was repeatedly beaten in Honduras by gang members who stole money that his mother sent back to him, Katz said. The attacks, sometimes pistol-whippings, left him with scars.

Francisco's journey to the United States included river crossings and was capped by a five-night walk across the Arizona desert with the aid of a smuggler hired by a friend in Los Angeles, Katz said.

When the friend was arrested for selling movies in the street without a license, Francisco moved to San Francisco, Katz said.

He earned some money as a roofer, but his youth and small stature made it hard for him to find work. In desperation, he turned to dealing drugs, Katz said.

Francisco has had no contact with his mother for three months and is "afraid to return to Honduras," Katz said in a court filing. "He feels that he will be pursued by the gang members who robbed and assaulted him in the past."

Story called typical

Francisco's history of abuse and neglect is typical of many Latin American youths who have come to this country illegally, advocates for immigrants say.

San Francisco Police Commissioner David Campos, who himself came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala at age 14, said many juveniles such as Francisco deal drugs only out of necessity.

"This story is reflective of a lot of cases," said Campos, who is now a U.S. citizen. "That is why, from my perspective, juveniles should be treated differently."

He added, "You have a lot of situations where kids are being forced to do these things - it's a way to survive. I don't think turning them over to ICE is the answer."

Campos said San Francisco's sanctuary city law has been an effective crime-fighting tool because it allows immigrants to serve as witnesses to crimes without fear that police or prosecutors will turn them over to the federal government to be deported.

Joseph Russoniello, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, who has been critical of the city's shielding of juvenile offenders, said federal immigration officials have shown themselves capable of making distinctions in deportation proceedings, based on the circumstances of the youths involved.

He said he was encouraged by how Francisco G.'s case had been resolved.

"The process seems to be working," Russoniello said. "It's something we continue to monitor."

Largest Immigration Raid In The Country (Hudson Valley Press)

Largest Immigration Raid In The Country

August 28th, 2008

LAUREL, MS - In the wake of the largest workplace immigration raid in the country that involved the arrest of at least 600 workers and reports that raise grave concerns about the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Mississippi officials, the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation of ICE's conduct and called on the Bush administration to ensure that constitutional rights are scrupulously respected going forward. Staff from the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project arrived in Mississippi today to assess the situation firsthand.

"We are deeply concerned by reports that workers at the factory where the raid occurred were segregated by race or ethnicity and interrogated, the factory was locked down for several hours, workers were denied access to counsel, and ICE failed to inform family members and lawyers following the raid where the workers were being jailed," said Mónica Ramírez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project who has traveled to Mississippi to meet with family members and lawyers about the government's actions.

On Monday, ICE agents raided a factory located in Laurel, Mississippi owned by Howard Industries Inc., detained at least 600 workers and transported the arrested workers to a federal immigration detention facility in Jena, Louisiana, nearly 200 miles from their homes and family. Some of the workers who are parents of small children were released with an electronic monitoring device and ordered to report back to an ICE office. A few of the arrested workers have been charged under the same criminal statutes used by the government in the recent Postville, Iowa raids that were heavily criticized for the mass prosecutions and assembly-line guilty pleas that the government employed.

The ACLU of Mississippi and the national ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project are also working closely with organizations and advocates in Laurel, Hattiesburg and Jena to monitor the government's actions, assess the conduct of the raid and ensure compliance with the constitutional requirements of due process and non-discrimination.

Woman, in country illegally, faces jail, deportation (Porterville Recorder)

Woman, in country illegally, faces jail, deportation
Case: Suspect, already deported, arrested again.
August 28, 2008 - 1:13PM

A Porterville woman already deported from the country was arrested Wednesday on a felony drug warrant.

Detectives with the Porterville Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit were conducting a surveillance at about 7 p.m. Wednesday on deported felon Graciela Barrios, 49, in the 200 block of South Kessing Street.

Barrios was wanted for illegal drug trafficking, police report.

Detectives reportedly identified the suspect as Barrios and had obtained a felony arrest warrant for her arrest on suspicion of illegal drug sales.

During the surveillance, detectives reportedly saw Barrios leaving a home in the area. Detectives conducted a traffic stop and took her into custody.

Barrios allegedly gave a false name to the detectives, Sgt. Jake Castellow said in a prepared release. Her identity was confirmed by fingerprint comparisons during the booking process, Castellow reports.

She was booked into custody on the felony arrest warrant for alleged sales of a controlled substance and for allegedly providing a false name to a peace officer.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement was also contacted and issued an immigration hold.
Barrios was booked into the Tulare County Jail and is being held without bail.

Sgt. Larry Rodriguez today said police received a tip that Barrios was back in the community and put plans together to try to find her.

Police are continuing their investigation.

Barrios was arrested in March 2007 after police reportedly found what they suspected was methamphetamine packaged for sale, narcotics paraphernalia and $15,000 cash in a home in the 800 block of East Putnam Avenue.

At that time she was in the country illegally after having already been deported, police reported. She was originally deported based on another drug-related offense, police reported.

At that time immigration officials said Barrios would be deported again once she served any necessary time linked to the 2007 case.

-- Contact Glen Faison at 784-5000, Ext. 1040, or

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inmate immigration status checks to begin soon (Bradenton Herald)

Inmate immigration status checks to begin soon

Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

After four weeks of intensive training, corrections officers at the Manatee County jail are almost ready to dig deeper into inmates' immigration status.

Five corrections officers from the jail have returned from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement training program with a working knowledge of how to navigate the web of federal immigration databases.

In one more week, those officers are projected to have the software and computers necessary to access the databases, with ICE officials setting up a network at the jail, according to Manatee County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Heier.

With the ICE training under their belt, Heier and the four other officers will have authorization to place federal holds on inmates found to be in the country illegally. Five more corrections officers at the jail are in training.

"It was a rigorous training program, to say the least," Heier said. "Immigration laws are so complex, and it seems like there is an exception to every rule."

Once the program is up and running, all inmates booked into the jail who are not U.S. citizens will be vetted through the Department of Homeland Security databases.

It will allow corrections officers to put immigration holds on inmates for up to 48 hours, until ICE officials can make a decision on whether the person qualifies for deportation.

Currently, a list of all inmates who are potentially in the country illegally is sent to ICE officials to be vetted. But as ICE reviews the list, there is nothing to prevent an inmate from bonding out of jail.

"This allows us to immediately begin a more thorough investigation into a person's status," Heier said.

The handling of illegal immigrants in local jails has come under question this week.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, called for the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's interaction with ICE prior to the release of an illegal immigrant accused of a series of rapes in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The man, Rigoberto Moron-Martinez, 20, was arrested on a charge of violating a domestic violence injunction in Hillsborough County, but later released just days before investigators say he committed the rapes, according to reports.

With the current system of sending the daily list to ICE, which is done by most agencies in Florida, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, time can run out before an inmate makes bond.

"It is very possible for people to slip through the cracks who we don't want on the street," Heier said. "These cases can become high-profile. There is not much we can do when a person has the right to bond out before their status is investigated."

Officers are almost completely trained in immigration databases

Bicycle vs. vehicle (Lodi News-Sentinel)

Bicycle vs. vehicle [19th item]

7:11 p.m. [Saturday, August 23, 2008] — An 11-year-old boy rode his bicycle in front of a car in the 400 block of Railroad Avenue, and suffered a concussion and broken leg. The driver wasn't at fault or drunk, but he went to jail because he had no license or proof of immigration status.

Illegal immigrants arrested in Lubbock chase (KGBT-Lubbock, TX)

Illegal immigrants arrested in Lubbock chase

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 10:15 a.m.

Nine suspected illegal immigrants are in custody after allegedly fleeing from Border Patrol agents in Lubbock.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that a Border Patrol agent stopped their van in the 7000 block of Avenue P at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials told the newspaper that the van initially stopped, but then took off leading agents on a car chase and then footchase.

The Avalanche-Journal reported that two of the suspects were from Nicaragua, two were from Guatemala, one was from Honduras, one was from El Salvador and three were from Mexico.

Authorities told the newspaper that all nine were all living illegally in Jacksonville, Fla., and had driven to Lubbock to work in the construction business.

Most of the group likely will be taken to an immigration detention center to await deportation to their home countries.

Agents find 62 illegal immigrants in home (AP c/o Houston Chronicle)

Agents find 62 illegal immigrants in home

Aug. 26, 2008, 6:31PM

EDINBURG, Texas — Federal agents found 62 illegal immigrants in a two-bedroom house after receiving a tip about suspicious activity in a quiet neighborhood Tuesday.

Neighbors on both sides of the duplex where Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents found the immigrants were shocked by the news.

"I was just looking around thinking 'where would they all fit,'" said Cris Melaragno, who lives in another duplex next door. "I barely have room for me and my three kids."

Melaragno said she had spoken with her neighbors who shared the duplex with the stash house and they had never heard a sound.

"I can hear it when my neighbors play the radio," Melaragno said.

When she noticed the agents surrounding the house Tuesday morning, she came out but was told to go back inside.

The only thing that seemed suspicious in hindsight was a man who always entered the house after closing the garage door and who drove a variety of pickup trucks and jeeps, Melaragno said.

Mostly young families live in the new brick duplexes lining one side of a residential street.

The Border Patrol received a phone call reporting suspicious activity at the home Tuesday and went to check it out with ICE and the Edinburg Police Department, said Border Patrol spokesman Dan Doty.

Inside they found 62 people who appeared to be in good health. It was unknown how long they had been in the house, Doty said.

The undocumented immigrants hailed from a variety of Central American countries including Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico, said ICE spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda.

"We're working leads to determine how they got into the country," Pruneda said. No arrests have been made.

Border Patrol processed the immigrants and they could be turned over to ICE for deportation, Doty said.

Yesenia Castro, who lives in the duplex on the other side of the stash house, was watching news of the illegal immigrant bust on television Tuesday evening and said she did not know anyone lived next door.

"I can't believe it either," Castro said in Spanish.

Doty said finding stash houses with so many illegal immigrants was more common eight to 10 years ago, but less so now.

"If you saw the house, you'd be shocked," he said. "It was a very nice neighborhood."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ICE raids Howard Industries (Laurel Leader-Call)

ICE raids HI
350 illegal immigrants suspected

By Jason Niblett,

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed 350 people suspected as being illegal immigrants working at Howard Industries were found during a raid Monday.

There was no word if any employees of Howard Industries were arrested. Brandon A. Montgomery, a communications specialists for ICE, said the investigation is just the beginning. He said agents are just beginning their task of conducting interviews and sorting through documents. He said evidence will decide whether or not “employees, supervisors, or owners” are arrested or fined.

ICE Southern Regional Communications Director Barbara Gonzalez told the Leader-Call two federal search warrants were executed at the Howard Industries transformer plant in Laurel and at the Howard Industries headquarters at the Howard Technology Park in Ellisville. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of federal agents were at both locations. ICE would not confirm the number of agents.

“We have enough personnel to address any situation,” she said. “We do believe there are illegal immigrants here at Howard Industries.”

Ambulances were also on the scene. Gonzalez said there were no reports of injuries or medical emergencies, but the responders were on location to assist in case they were needed.

There were unconfirmed reports that employees were separated by gender and held until questioning. Gonzalez did confirm hundreds of people were questioned.

“We’re going to be working and interviewing every single individual,” she said.

Steve Dodd, an eyewitness who was at the transformer plant during the raid, said American citizens were provided blue armbands. He said the entire operation was professional.

“There was nothing cruel about it,” Dodd said. “It was a smooth operation. It was all very professional — no violence, very professional.”

Howard Industries released a statement Monday afternoon saying the company did not knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

“Today, Howard Industries was visited by the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to ascertain if all employees are U. S. citizens or otherwise legally authorized to work in the United States. Howard Industries runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for jobs. It is company policy that it hires only U. S. citizens and legal immigrants. All Howard Industries employees should report to work Tuesday, August 26, for their regularly scheduled shift,” the press release reads.

An organization in Jackson predicted the raid Friday.

The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance released a statement warning of a massive raid “for South Mississippi.”

Executive Director Bill Chandler told the Leader-Call that the raid was very similar to one in Postville, Iowa, several months ago. The raid was made at the Agriprocessors, Inc. Kosher meatpacking plant.

“A series of preparations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the Gulf Coast has local advocates on edge about the possibility of yet another worksite raid, and yet another devastating blow to businesses, families, and communities in the name of immigration enforcement,” a statement reads.

Chandler told the Leader-Call, “It was evident ICE was around in large numbers around South Mississippi. They have conducted the same kind of attacks in Massachusetts and Iowa.”

Considering children and spouses who remain in Jones County, Chandler said the raid creates a humanitarian crisis.

“We are responding with humanitarian aid to the family members of the arrested,” he said.

This is the second federal investigation Howard Industries has faced this summer. In June, the U. S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed $193,000 in penalties against Howard Industries for 54 violations of federal safety rules at the company’s two manufacturing locations in Laurel.

OSHA reported 36 serious violations and proposed $123,500 in penalties for the Pendorf Plant, which is the same location of Monday’s raid. There were 15 serious violations, with penalties of $41,000, at the Eastview plant.

Howard Industries at the time told the Leader-Call to expect a statement, but one was never released. An employee asked for more information, said the company was not aware of the OSHA violations, and said, “There will be no comment at this time, but we’ll be back in touch.”

There were also reports of raids against other industries in Jones County. However, Gonzalez said those reports were “not true.” The other Howard Industries locations in Sandersville and Mendenhall, along with other Laurel and Ellisville facilities, were not involved.

*UPDATE* Raid figure rises

The number of alleged illegal immigrants detained in a raid Monday at Howard Industries has nearly doubled, and could go higher, according to officials. They now say there are 595 suspected illegal immigrants.

"This is probably the largest single site target for law enforcement," Immigration and Customs Enforcement Communications Director Barbara Gonzalez said.

About 475 people have been transported to the ICE detention facility in Louisiana.