Immigration raid at SE Houston business

June 25, 2008 5:31:08 PM PDT
More than 150 illegal immigrants were taken into custody during a raid at a clothing company, as part of a year long investigation. Many of those arrested were women from Mexico. Federal agents arrived to conduct what they called a targeted worksite enforcement operation just as Action Rags employees began showing up for work.

Greg Palmore with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said, "There were individuals found trying to locate hiding spaces inside. At this point we are still working to secure the facility."

At this facility, workers sort used clothes, which are then sold overseas. Today's operation is the culmination of a year-long investigation. While it's not clear just how many people were taken into custody, concerned family members were desperate to find out if their loved ones were among them. Louis Patino has two aunts who work here. He says they are in this country illegally.

"When you need money, you'll work anywhere," Patino said. "That's what it is."

Eric Venegas wonders what this means for his family. His mother has worked at the business for three years, but he admits she doesn't have a permit to work in the US.

He said, "She's our only mom, we don't have a dad or anything."

Many of those who arrived on the scene did so with documentation to prove their relatives are in the US legally. Federal authorities were quick to release anyone who was able to provide such proof.

Approximately 160 people, mainly women, identified as illegal immigrants were taken into custody. The agent who led the operation considers it an important part of stopping illegal immigration. Months in the planning, more than 200 federal agents helped execute the search warrant at the northeast Houston company.

"We take the information we gather from the search warrant documents, interviews with the aliens, we'll take it all together to the US attorney. He'll decide the next course of action," explained Robert Rutt with U.S. Immigration.

Missing from those detained were the people who employed the workers. As the investigation progresses they could face criminal charges.

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