Sunday, September 28, 2008

Immigration and Customs Enforcement team sought one suspect in restaurant last month (Peninsula Daily News)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement team sought one suspect in restaurant last month

Peninsula Daily News
Sunday, September 28, 2008

PORT ANGELES — An Immigration and Customs Enforcement team took an immigration fugitive into custody last month from the India Oven restaurant, said an ICE spokeswoman.

Joga Singh Khaira, 58, of India had been ordered deported by an immigration judge in 2001, "and had failed to comply," ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.

"He was living illegally in the country," she added.

Khaira was taken to a facility at SeaTac.

The team from Seattle also checked the documentation of workers at the restaurant in downtown Port Angeles, she said.

"When we were there, we had reasonable cause to look at the documents of the individual people.

"There were five of them. All were aliens or natives of other countries.

"They were working there legally."

Dankers said that while the ICE fugitive operations team was in Port Angeles on Aug. 24, it "did encounter another individual who is not a fugitive, and who is illegally in the country."

She said that person, whom Dankers declined to identify, had fled the restaurant while agents were checking workers' documents.

The person was taken into custody, and will have an opportunity to go before an immigration judge, with the judge determining whether the individual is allowed to remain in the country.

The person was charged with a violation of an immigration law, which is an administrative charge rather than a criminal charge, and so the name can't be released under Department of Homeland Security privacy policy, she said.

Not Border Patrol

A story on Page A7 on Sept. 7 said erroneously that Border Patrol agents checked citizenship papers of workers at the restaurant that serves East Indian cuisine.

It was an ICE team, not the Border Patrol, that entered India Oven on Aug. 24, Dankers said.

"It was in ICE action," she said.

"We have what we call fugitive operations," in which teams of enforcement agents look for immigration fugitives, she said.

These are "people who have been ordered removed from the country by an immigration judge, but have failed to comply with that order," she explained.

The sole task of the ICE fugitive operations teams is to find immigration fugitives and carry out the judge's order, Dankers said.

Three such teams — out of 90 nationwide — are based in the Pacific Northwest. They are in Yakima, Seattle and Portland, Ore., she said.

They cover Alaska, Oregon and Washington state.

On Aug. 24, the Seattle team was in Port Angeles following leads in an investigation to find Khaira, she said.

Dankers said he was found at the restaurant and taken into custody.

Kelly Sidhu, one of the co-owners of the India Oven — who was at the Dairy Queen at the time — said she understood that no one had been taken into custody at the restaurant.

She had thought the agents were from the Border Patrol because of recent news reports of Border Patrol checkpoints.

Border Patrol spokesman Michael Bermudez had told the Peninsula Daily News that the action at the India Oven was not by Border Patrol agents.

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