Federal immigration agents arrested 133 foreign-born employees of restaurants and other businesses in Nebraska and Minnesota yesterday in what officials described as the breakup of an immigrant employment ring.
Also apprehended were 17 employers from 11 businesses in those states and Las Vegas, including two restaurants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the group had conspired to place undocumented aliens in jobs and then exploit them through such practices as requiring paychecks be cashed by the participating employers for a fee.
In addition to restaurants, the involved businesses included farms, cattle ranches, grain processors and grocery stores.
The 17 remain in custody. An undisclosed number of the 133 workers lacking authority to work in the United States were also held, with the rest released with notices they appear at a later date before an immigration judge.
The restaurants involved were twin La Herradura restaurants, one in O’Neill, Neb., the other in Stromsburg, Neb.
Arrested from the restaurants was Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado. He is accused of recruiting immigrant workers and placing them in jobs in tomato greenhouses and other businesses in addition to his restaurants.
ICE contends Delgado developed false names and Social Security numbers for his own employees and charged them a fee for cashing their checks. The allegations also hold that he withheld taxes from the workers, but kept the money rather than passing it along to the federal government.
“The job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders,” Tracy J. Cormier, a special agent in charge for Homeland Security, the department that encompasses ICE, said in a statement. “This HSI-led criminal investigation has shown that these targeted businesses were knowingly hiring illegal workers to unlawfully line their own pockets by cheating the workers, cheating the taxpayers, and cheating their business competitors.”
ICE said the arrests of 133 workers at the involved businesses is part of a larger effort by the agency to find undocumented aliens through workplace audits.
From July 16 through July 20, ICE presented 2,738 businesses with notices of inspection, the alerts that give employers two days to present I-9 documents for all employees. The forms prove the holder has been authorized to work in the U.S. Thirty-eight arrests were made as a result of that five-day operation.
The agency has issued roughly 5,200 notices thus far in 2018.