Thursday, September 18, 2008

Feds: 43 suspected illegals deported since raid (AP c/o Sun-Herald)

Feds: 43 suspected illegals deported since raid

By HOLBROOK MOHR - Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Sep. 18, 2008

JACKSON, Miss. -- Forty-three suspected illegal immigrants have been deported less than a month after being captured in the nation's largest single-site raid on undocumented workers, an immigration official said Thursday.

Nearly 600 workers at Howard Industries' transformer factory in Laurel were rounded up Aug. 25 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Two others left the country voluntarily.

Most of those who haven't been deported are being held in a Louisiana detention facility awaiting hearings. More than 100 others - mostly women with children - were fitted with monitoring devices after the raid and ordered to appear in court.

"Everyone has due process of law," said ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. "There's obviously and appellate process as well. If individuals are ordered deported and they want to appeal that to the Board of Immigration Appeals they're in their right to do so."

Nine people detained in the raid face federal charges related to identity theft, according to court records.

The latest person accused of identify theft, Tomas Juarez-Perez of Mexico, was charged Monday with using the name and Social Security number of another man whose information had been reported stolen, according to court records.

"Eight of them have been indicted. I anticipate this last fellow to face the same charges," said John Weber, a federal public defender who represents those accused of identity theft. "My clients have entered a not guilty plea. We're preparing for trial."

Weber said those indicted face up to 17 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to the maximum on all three counts - aggravated identity theft, use or possession of a fraudulent alien registration card and use of a Social Security number belonging to someone else.

The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 15.

Juarez-Perez is accused of using the resident alien card of a man named Jose Rodriguez, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg. A fraudulent card seized by ICE agents allegedly contained Rodriguez's personal information next to a photograph of Juarez-Perez.

It's not clear how many more workers could face federal criminal charges in the case.

Gonzalez would not say how the fraudulent identities were obtained nor how ICE identified the nine.

However, several people in Laurel who acknowledged being illegal immigrants told The Associated Press after the raid that it was easy to obtain fraudulent documents in the area.

One, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Jose, because he feared retribution or deportation, said illegal workers sometimes paid from $400 to $1,500 to buy fraudulent identities from people they learned about through word of mouth.

The lower-priced documents were generally made with fictitious Social Security numbers, while the more expensive ones contained other people's real information, Jose said. Several other people backed up his claim but asked that their identities not be made public.

Jose said when he first applied to work at Howard Industries, he learned the Social Security number he purchased had already been used there. He said he obtained new documents, applied again and was hired.

A woman who answered the phone at Howard Industries on Thursday declined comment. The company issued a statement in the past that says it "runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for its jobs. It is company policy that it hires only U.S. citizens and legal immigrants."

Howard Industries is the largest employer in Jones County and makes products ranging from computers to medical supplies. The company's corporate headquarters also was raided, but no executives have been charged with crimes.

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