MALDEF

Raid in Washington State Sheds Light on Broken Immigration System

On Tuesday, February 24, federal immigration agents raided Yamato Engine Specialists Ltd., an engine remanufacturing plant in Bellingham, Washington State, arresting 28 individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. The arrested workers included 25 men, all of Latino descent, and 3 women of Mexican descent. The three women were processed, but then released on humanitarian grounds because they had children in local school or daycare centers.

The separation of families is only one aspect our current immigration system that is broken. News reports showed that the company had been cooperating with immigration officials to ensure that all their workers had proper documentation.
Yamato officials, who said they had been cooperating with ICE since last fall when investigators began looking at employment documents, were shocked by today's raid.

In fact, three of the workers arrested today had been cleared as having legitimate documents during an employment records audit by ICE in 2005, said Yamato spokeswoman Shirin Dhanani Makalai.

We have been audited before so we do due diligence to get the proper paperwork," Makalai said. "People bring you paperwork that by law you are required to accept. You can't always tell if it's not correct."1
Earlier this month, Washington congressman Norm Dicks sent a letter to the new Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano expressing his concern about the improper use of DHS resources and the improper conduct of Border Patrol agents:
As we have increased the staffing and resources for the Border Patrol in the Clallam and Jefferson County are of Washington State, I am concerned that these resources may not be utilized in ways that best respond to the more serious threats that exist at the northern border, in particular the prevention of terrorists from entering the United States.

[…]

I have now received reports that [Border Patrol] agents have adopted an even more aggressive strategy of performing ad hoc traffic stops, making individual arrests… [T]he suggestion of profiling is hard to avoid when reviewing public accounts of these actions. The most recent account is even more disturbing: Border Patrol agents boarding public and private buses operating in regular domestic service around the Olympic Peninsula, lacking any apparent probable cause, primarily questioning riders about their citizenship.2
__________________________________________
1. John Stark and Anna Walters, "Federal immigration agents raid Bellingham business," The Bellingham Herald, 24 Feb 2009.
2. Congressman Norm Dicks, "Letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security," 9 Feb 2009

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund