Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Immigration raid at a Palm Springs bakery nets 51 arrests (The Desert Sun)

Immigration raid at a Palm Springs bakery nets 51 arrests

Nicole Brambila • The Desert Sun • September 10, 2008

More than 60 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have convened at Palm Springs Baking Co., 1196 Montalvo Way, near the Palm Springs International Airport.

Fifty-one people were arrested, but 24 were released because they are the primary caregivers of children or ederly adults, an ICE official said.

The majority of the arrests were for living and working in the United States without documentation. However, supervisor Margarita Hernandez Aviles, 52, of Cathedral City, was arrested on suspicion of continuing to employ an unauthorized alien, ICE authorities said.

Her son, Lorenzo Hernandez, said: "If they've got something, say there's illegals working here, then go to the owners. Why her?" He said she's been a supervisor for 20 years and makes less than $11 an hour as a translator.

ICE officials said the raid was conducted because of allegations that managers and supervisors at the company extorted money from undocument immigrants -- guaranteeing them a job if they paid $3,000.

Brandon Tesmer of Huntington Beach, CEO of the company, said the company has been in the valley for 20 years.

"We've worked with INS in the past," Tesmer said. "We'll work with them now. We've done everything right."

Workers intermittingly came out of the building and rummaged through their vehicles for paperwork to hand to agents.

One woman ran up to the building, saying her mother was in there, then ran away after she was deterred by ICE officers.

Those trying to find out information about arrested family members today can call (909) 286-3324, ICE officials said. After today, they can call (213) 830-4930.

The officers came from the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, about 11 a.m. after convening there about 9 this morning.

Federal Food and Drug Administration officers also participated in the operation.

"Employment is a magnet," said Jorge Guzman, assistant special agent in charge with ICE.

"It's an exploitation of human cargo,that's what it is."

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