Wednesday, May 14, 2008

7 immigrants detained as undocumented (Trenton Times)

7 immigrants detained as undocumented
Victims work for Rider University contractor

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

TRENTON -- Federal immigration officers detained seven immigrants who work as cleaners at Rider University in a raid in Chambersburg yesterday morning.

The immigrants are employees of a cleaning contractor called Unico, Rider spokesman Daniel Higgins said.

At about 7:30 a.m. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers blocked the workers' van near the corner of Broad and Division streets, said a witness, who declined to give her name. They removed 10 people from the van, she said.

"I heard all these guys saying, 'Get out of the van, get out of the van,'" the witness said. "All these ladies were crying. It was a shame."

Three of the people were released and the seven others remain in ICE custody, according to Maria "Charo" Juega, treasurer of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Princeton. Juega said she spoke to one of the workers who was released.

An ICE spokeswoman in Boston was tracking down information on the arrests last night but was unable to comment by press time.

Juega said the worker she spoke with is a Guatemalan immigrant who was arrested and then released because she has a child.

The woman's aunt and uncle, who have been in the U.S. for 10 years, are still being held on $5,000 bail each, Juega said.

"She said, 'This is a fortune for us,'" Juega said. "There's no way they can raise $10,000."

In the past year ICE has adopted the tactic of picking up suspected undocumented immigrants outside of their homes rather than knocking on their doors, Juega said. The agency usually conducts raids in spurts, so more arrests may occur in the area in the next few days, she said.
Unico said the workers are not illegal immigrants, Higgins said.

"They were picked up this morning and asked for their papers," he said. "They didn't have the papers with them so they called (Unico's) office, and the office is now providing ICE with the proper documentation."

"I assume it's working itself out," he said.

Higgins said he did not know if the university had a policy on ensuring its contractors hired people legally allowed to work.

Juega's reaction to the claim that the workers had proper papers was a suppressed laugh.
She said universities and other employers insulate themselves from responsibility for hiring undocumented workers by using contractors.

"It's a way to establish legal cover for companies that hire these workers," she said. "There's two or three layers between the employer and the employee."

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