Saturday, April 2, 2011

I-Team 10 investigation: Harboring illegal immigrants (WHEC-NY)

I-Team 10 investigation: Harboring illegal immigrants

Posted at: 04/01/2011 5:10 PM | Updated at: 04/01/2011 9:17 PM
By: Brett Davidsen |

I-Team 10 has uncovered a case against a local restaurant owner accused of harboring illegal immigrants.

El Jimador Mexican restaurant in Ontario County was searched by federal agents earlier this month.

Investigators say they first became aware of the situation from a confidential informant. A search of the restaurant turned up three Mexican nationals in the U.S. illegally and a makeshift apartment in the basement.

When agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement began investigating the Mexican restaurant in Farmington, they noticed something. The men who worked in the kitchen didn't appear on payroll records. When they began surveillance, they noticed something else, those men also never left the building after the restaurant closed for the day.

Now, the owner of El Jimador mexican restaurant, J. Guadalupe Hernandez, stands accused of harboring illegal immigrants.

When I-Team 10 went to the restaurant, we caught up with Hernandez but he wouldn't talk about his employees.

Agents got a search warrant for the restaurant and what they found was a makeshift living space in the basement complete with shower, beds and couches. And inside they also found three men, all from Mexico, all in this country illegally.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Miller said, “It's alleged that those individuals were living in his basement of El Jimador and then working at that premises at the same time."

The number of arrests of illegal immigrants in western New York has picked up considerably in recent years.

Stepped up efforts by the U.S. Border Patrol are visible daily at the Rochester bus and train stations. According to Homeland Security, more than 10,000 illegals have been arrested or detained in the region encompassing Rochester and Buffalo over the past four years alone, reaching a peak of 3,300 arrests in 2008.

“It's not a surprise. It's happening all over and a lot more than we think." Callie Rabe is with Rochester Alliance for Immigrant Rights. She says it's the illegal workers who are being victimized and she says it's time for amnesty and a guest worker program to better protect them from exploitation. “It's really is also about enforcement of people who are hiring people who are not here legally with proper documentation and it needs to be enforced. They need to have accountability for what they're doing."

As for Hernandez, court documents suggest he knew the men were in the U.S. illegally.

Miller said, “They indicated they were hired by Mr. Hernandez, paid under the table for their work there and that they did not fill out any sort of immigration forms or forms for employment."

Hernandez, who is a U.S. citizen and lives in Canandaigua, was charged in federal court last week and was released without bail being set. He is to re-appear in court next week.

The restaurant, El Jimador, remains open.

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