Monday, January 25, 2010

Immigration agents stop vans taking workers to Gillette Stadium (Providence Journal)

Immigration agents stop vans taking workers to Gillette Stadium

01:00 AM EST on Friday, January 8, 2010
By Karen Lee Ziner
Journal Staff Writer

Sixty people stopped by immigration authorities in Foxboro early Wednesday morning had driven from Rhode Island to clear snow at Gillette Stadium, according to several of the workers who were detained and released.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents pulled over four passenger vans carrying the workers on Route 1 north in Foxboro, according to ICE spokeswoman Paula Grenier.

Seven of the 60 remain in custody, Grenier said, and 49 were released and ordered to go to ICE offices for further interviews about their immigration status. Two were charged with immigration violations and released pending a hearing before an immigration judge. One person who had legal documentation was released, and another is in removal proceedings.

“This was a targeted law-enforcement operation looking for specific fugitives,” Grenier said. “We have two individuals wanted on warrants of deportation and five who have illegally reentered the United States after having been deported.”

One of the van drivers, Gregorio Pablo, was among more than a dozen seeking assistance in Providence on Thursday.

He said he was driving 14 people to the stadium to shovel the snow off the seats. He said he believes all the workers are Guatemalan.

Through an interpreter, Pablo said, “We were close to the stadium — three miles away,” when he saw flashing lights behind him. Pablo said he pulled over to make way for what he thought was a police cruiser trying to move past him. Instead, he realized that he and others were being detained by immigration agents.

Pablo said he got a job driving the van this week through word of mouth, through “an office in Boston.”

“If the stadium needs to be cleaned, if there’s an event,” he said, then workers get called in. And on Sunday nights after a game, “they’ll pick up all the garbage.”

Stacey James, spokesman for Gillette Stadium and the New England Patriots, said, “We utilize multiple third-party vendors that hire a temporary work force for snow removal. So it’s a short-term temporary hire. We expect with any vendor that we use that they vet all employees, and as far as I am aware, everyone that came to work here is vetted.”

Grenier, the ICE spokeswoman, said, “We were looking for specific individuals. When we do conduct these, we often encounter other aliens during the operation. In this case, we did encounter a number of others in addition to the seven who are detained.”

Grenier said fugitive operations teams make it a priority to arrest people with criminal histories. In this case, those include domestic assault, obstructing a police officer, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and driving while under the influence.

She said the two people with outstanding deportation warrants will be deported. Federal authorities will review the cases of five others who reentered the country after they were deported for possible federal prosecution.

Immigration lawyer Roberto Gonzalez, of East Providence, said Thursday that he was working with other attorneys and the Guatemalan consulate in Rhode Island to provide legal representation and assistance for some of the detainees.

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