- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

BALTIMORE — U.S. immigration agents yesterday arrested more than 50 illegal aliens hired through a temporary employment agency — the most recent sting in the federal government’s growing work site enforcement campaign.

As part of a yearlong investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents also seized more than $636,000 in assets from the Baltimore-based Jones Industrial Network, which contracts with other companies to provide temporary workers, said James Dinkins, the agency’s special agent in charge in Baltimore.

Agents detained illegal aliens from eight other Baltimore-area locations, including sportswear maker Under Armour Inc. and the Port of Baltimore.

Mr. Dinkins called illegal aliens at the port “a major security vulnerability.”

He said the employment agency is the only target of the criminal investigation and that the businesses with which it contracted were not required to confirm workers’ legal status.

Under Armour general counsel Kevin Haley said the company was not aware the employees, who worked at its distribution center, were illegal aliens. The company is considering legal action against the employment agency.

“At Under Armour, we are patriots first and last, and we’re fully committed to compliance with all laws and regulations,” he said. “We’re furious that apparently one of the temp agencies we use was not so committed or gave the appearance of being not so committed.”

The federal agents also searched Baltimore Metal and Commodities, Beacon Stevedoring, BP Castro, C Steinweg, Dixie Printing & Packaging Corp., Pritchard Brown and Tessco Technology.

ICE officials said they do not know what percentage of the employment agency’s work force are illegal aliens.

The raids began at 9 a.m. and ended at 1:30 p.m. The exact number of arrests was not released.

Jones company officials were not arrested in the raid or charged criminally, though ICE officials did not rule that out.

Those arrested are of Ecuadorean, Ghanaian, Guatemalan, Honduran, Kenyan, Mexican and Salvadoran descent, ICE said.

Detainees are being held at the Dorchester County and Worcester County detention centers in Maryland and in York County Prison in York, Pa., Calvin McCormick, ICE’s Baltimore field office director, said at a press conference.

Many of the illegal aliens will be placed in “removal proceedings” to begin the process for deportation, but some might qualify for release under “humanitarian reasons,” such as being the sole caregiver of a child, Mr. Dinkins said.

Maryland Child Protective Services officials are stationed at the detention sites, he said.

“These raids are dividing families,” CASA of Maryland spokeswoman Kim Propeack said yesterday. “We don’t think the American public believes parents should be separated from young children.”

ICE has conducted a series of high-profile raids targeting employers of illegal aliens since the Department of Homeland Security was founded in 2003.

The number of criminal arrests in work site enforcement operations has increased from 25 in fiscal 2002 to 716 in fiscal 2006. Those numbers include employers and illegal aliens, ICE said.

The number of administrative arrests — illegal aliens arrested for unlawful presence in the United States — in work site enforcement operations has increased from 485 to 3,667 over the same period, ICE said.

ICE’s work site enforcement tactics are aimed at protecting national security and promoting fair labor standards.

Many employers subject undocumented workers to substandard wages and other human rights abuses, ICE said.

Though employers are prosecuted on immigration-related charges, workers bear the brunt of the punishment, Miss Propeack said.

“They kick workers out of the country,” she said. “They levy a series of charges against these guys … but have they ever collected unpaid wages? Do they even ensure that workers receive their last paychecks? No.”

Chris Newman, legal program director for the California-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said federal officials must address labor rights separately from immigration enforcement.

“Workplace protections, labor rights, civil rights … should be de-linked from immigration enforcement,” he said. “People should have full workplace protections regardless of their immigration status, and we should not allow these raids on employers to be used as a pretext to push people further underground.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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