ICE Smashes Illegal-Alien Smuggling Ring in Nebraska, Minnesota


Immigration enforcement officials have broken up a network which supplied illegal-migrant labor to many worksites in Nebraska and Minnesota.

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a series of criminal arrest warrants were executed Wednesday for 17 individuals connected to an alleged criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Nebraska and Minnesota,” said the statement, which continued:

During the execution of these search warrants Aug. 8, 133 illegal workers were administratively arrested for immigration violations; some will be issued notices to appear before a federal immigration judge and released from custody; the rest will remain in ICE custody pending immigration court proceedings.

The operation and the 150 arrests spotlight the revival of immigration enforcement since 2017 by President Donald Trump, after years of minimal enforcement by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The Nebraska operation may help deter employers from hiring illegals at black-market rates instead of hiring Americans are market-level salaries. The raids are also pushing farmers to legally hire more visa-workers via the growing H-2A visa program instead of relying on illegal-labor brokers.

The ACLU of Nebraska condemned the raid. “Enough is enough,” Danielle Conrad, the executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, told Channel 8 KLKN-TV on August 8.

Another pro-migration group, Nebraska Appleseed, issued a statement defending the employers and saying that Nebraskans have the same status as foreign migrants:

[Enforcement agencies] went into businesses and arrested hard-working, peaceful Nebraskans, tearing apart families, parents, and children, and leaving the community to deal with the damage …

Law enforcement officials lose the trust of local residents, who are now understandably afraid to go to the police with information that could help solve cases.

Tonight, there will be children who will come home to find a parent missing. There will be local businesses unsure if they can reopen or provide a safe workplace to their employees.

The latest operation differs from prior operations which often picked up illegal immigrants in their workplaces. Instead, the operations show the agency is going after the underground networks of labor brokers who deliver illegal-immigrants to cooperating managers at U.S. companies.  The statement said:

Law enforcement believes the alleged conspirators, 17 individuals located in multiple states, colluded to create an illegal alien workforce in their respective businesses.  By doing so, they defrauded the U.S. government and created an unfair advantage over their competition businesses.

The network allegedly also abused the migrants by taking some of their already minimal pay:

Authorities suspect the illegal aliens who were knowingly hired as part of this alleged conspiracy were exploited by the conspirators through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation. Specifically, these illegal aliens were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, have tax money deducted from their pay even though this money was never paid to the government, and were coerced to remain quiet about this criminal activity.

The descriptions suggests that a few of the migrants may have tipped off authorities about the crimes. If so, the tipsters may be able to get U- Visas, which would allow them to stay in the United States.

The migrants were working at various agricultural facilities, including a tomato-growing greenhouse and a pork slaughterhouse. Officials raided numerous locations, and gathered evidence which may be used in trials of the arrested people and others. The sites included:

  • Christensen Farms with numerous locations in Appleton, Minnesota; Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; and Atkinson, Nebraska;
  • Elkhorn River Farms in O’Neill, Nebraska;
  • O’Neill Ventures in O’Neill, Nebraska;
  • La Herradura Restaurant in O’Neill, Nebraska;
  • El Mercadito (grocery store) in O’Neill, Nebraska;
  • A private ranch in O’Neill, Nebraska;
  • La Herradura Restaurant in Stromsburg, Nebraska;
  • GJW LLC with three locations in Ainsworth, Nebraska;
  • J.E. Meurets Grain Company in Ainsworth, Nebraska;
  • Herd Co Cattle Company in Bartlett, Nebraska; and
  • Long Pine (farm) in Royal, Nebraska.

“The job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders,” said Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier, HSI St. Paul, which oversees Nebraska and Minnesota. “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.”

Since October 2017, the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations unit has checked employment records at more than 6,093 worksites, up from 1,716 in the prior fiscal year from October 2016 to the end of September 2017. The current pace of checks in 2018 is almost a five-fold increase from the prior year and included 100 stores in the 7-Eleven chain and 77 companies in California.

The agency has made more than 675 criminal arrests of managers or supervisors, plus more than 984 administrative arrests of illegals in the last nine months, versus 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests during the prior 12 months, according to a DHS statement. That is a five-fold increase in criminal arrests and a sixfold increase in administrative arrests.

In 2018, the DHS agency has also conducted several large-scale raids, including a meatpacker in Tennessee, and a meatpacker and landscaping firm in Ohio.






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