Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted its largest workplace raid in a decade on Wednesday.
ICE agents went into the offices of CVE Technology Group in Allen, Texas, and arrested more than 280 employees for “administrative immigration violations,” which generally are arrests for being unauthorized, not for committing any other offense. The agency said in a news release that those arrested were “unlawfully working” in the U.S.
The agency told HuffPost that Wednesday’s “worksite enforcement operation” had resulted in the largest number of administrative arrests for a single site since 2008.
ICE agents had executed search warrants on the telecommunications equipment repair business after receiving tips that it had hired undocumented workers and then auditing company tax forms, according to the agency’s news release.
“Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses,” ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agent Katrina W. Berger said in the release. “In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents.”
All of the undocumented workers arrested will be processed for deportation, the agency said in its release. ICE will be interviewing each person to determine whether to keep them in custody or release them into the community while their case proceeds.
“It’s yet another tactic that scares immigrant communities,” Randy Capps, the Migration Policy Institute’s director of research for U.S. programs, told HuffPost late last year, of workplace raids. He said worksite investigations have a “huge impact on local communities.”
“It’s just one more thing to be afraid of,” Capps said.
On Wednesday, Muzaffar Chishti, director of MPI’s office in New York, noted that, though this particular raid “does seem to set a high-water mark,” previous ICE raids that involved multiple locations (such as the 2017 raid of nearly 100 7-Eleven stores nationwide) would likely have a larger effect on the immigrant community, as “the fear is much more dispersed.”
Last year, ICE ramped up its investigations of workplaces suspected of employing undocumented immigrants, dramatically increasing the number of workers arrested in 2018.
In fiscal year 2018, ICE agents carried out nearly 7,000 checks of workplaces, compared with about 1,700 in fiscal year 2017. It also made more than 2,300 worksite-related arrests in 2018, compared with just over 300 such arrests the previous year.
ICE told HuffPost last year that the agency was committed to focusing on criminal investigations into employers. However, most of the people arrested in such raids were not employers but employees.
The agency said Wednesday it didn’t have a breakdown yet for how many of those arrested in the day’s operation were employees versus employers.
The Trump administration, which has a long record of anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, has broadened the government’s crackdown on illegal immigration, making all undocumented immigrants ― not just those with criminal histories ― targets for deportation.
Workplace raids tend to spread fear in undocumented communities by sending a message that undocumented workers are at risk of being targeted by agents at any time and being deported. For the undocumented community, extensive and visible raids in workplaces can drive people underground, making them more vulnerable to abuse, including exploitation at work.