Wednesday, December 27, 2006

15 Mexico citizens are indicted

Charges stem from raid at Hyrum meat-packing plant

By Linda Thomson and Deborah Bulkeley
Deseret Morning News
Federal indictments were handed down Wednesday for 15 Mexico citizens who were among 145 people arrested in last Tuesday's raid at the Swift & Co. meat-packing plant in Hyrum. Some of those arrested are also facing state criminal charges.

One indictment was sealed; the 14 others allege such crimes as identity theft, false use of a Social Security number, sale of citizenship papers and illegal use of documents for employment.
The arrests emerged after federal officials grew suspicious about massive identity theft that led to raids at Swift plants in Utah, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa.
In all, 1,282 people were arrested in what was called "Operation Wagon Train." Some are not facing criminal charges, but face deportation.
Among those who were indicted in Utah Wednesday are: Araceli Anguiano-Estrada, 25; Silvia Munoz-Fuentes, 47; Samuel Beltran Flores, 19; Juan Chavez-Alvarado, 25; Jesus Estrada-Trujillo, 52; Ignacio Sanchez-Medina, 20; Juan Ocampo-Ocampo, 40; Federico Pedraza-Santa Maria, 33; Alejandro Rodriguez-Velasquez, 19.
All but Anguiano-Estrada and Munoz-Fuentes are in custody.
Each has been indicted on use of unlawfully obtained documents for employment; use of false identification for employment eligibility verification; aggravated identity theft; and false use of a Social Security number.
Others who were indicted include Jesus Tafolla-Biana, 23, and Auturo Alegria-Murillo, 24, who are in custody. They have been indicted on unauthorized re-entry by a deported alien; use of unlawfully obtained documents for employment; use of false identification for employment eligibility verification; aggravated identity theft, and false use of a Social Security number.
The remaining three individuals are: Maria Jesus Satoya-Almanza, 28; Enrique Barriga-Sanchez, 28; and Sandra Moreno-Candanedo, 32. They were indicted on fraudulent use of means of identification. They are in custody, except for Santoya-Almanza.
In addition, two other people, Eleuterio Gutierrez, 48, (a U.S. citizen and resident of Texas) and Veronica Carrillo, 41, (a Mexico citizen) were charged last week with sale of citizenship papers and aggravated identity theft. Carrillo is in custody; Gutierrez is at large.
Some people who were arrested in last week's raid are being charged with identity fraud and/or forgery in Utah's state district court, rather than federal court.
"By tomorrow, there probably will be 78 and there may be several more," pending further investigations, said Tony Baird, chief prosecutor for the Cache County Attorney's Office.
Baird said there also could be more arrests: "They were not able to pick up everyone they had an arrest warrant for."
Meanwhile, Wednesday, about two dozen protesters rallied and prayed outside the Federal Building in Salt Lake to show their support for the arrested workers.
"We believe that any time workers are struggling they should support each other," said Julie Holzner of the United Steel Workers Local 12-593. "That's what we're doing."
Across the street, Michelle Herzog was among a handful of Utah Minuteman Project members out to support continued crackdowns on illegal immigration. "It's very scary that our identity could be stolen by other people who are not legally in this country," she said.
Federal law enforcement officials say most people caught up in the raid will not be charged with crimes, but their situations will be handled administratively and they could be deported.
In Utah, 114 arrests were for administrative matters related to immigration status, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It remained unclear how many of those 114 remain in federal custody, or if any now face criminal charges.
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said information wasn't immediately available on how many had taken the option of "voluntary removal," which does not count as a deportation, rather than face a hearing. Haley said she also didn't have information on whether ICE had released any of those arrested, pending a hearing, or if they all remained in custody.
If any of those detained opted for a hearing, their case would be handed over to the Executive Office of Immigration Review under the Department of Justice. Agency spokeswoman Elaine Komis said she couldn't provide information on specific cases without knowing alien numbers, which is how the agency tracks cases.
Komis said, in general, an immigration judge considers two questions: Whether a person is removable under immigration law and if the person is eligible for relief of removal.
While the most common request is by those seeking asylum from persecution in their homeland, non-permanent residents who meet several criteria may also seek relief.
Those criteria include good moral character, living in the United States for at least 10 years, and demonstrating that removal would cause "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" for an immediate family member who is a citizen or legal permanent resident.
Manuel Morodo, consul for the Department of Protection for the Salt Lake Mexican Consulate, said some of those arrested will face deportation hearings today.
Based on the latest information he had, Morodo said 24 of the roughly 130 Mexican nationals arrested have been returned to Mexico. Morodo said about 11 people have been released, seven of those at the consulate's request. Those individuals granted temporary relief are mostly single mothers or pregnant women, who must still appear before an immigration court.
"We will have to wait," he said. "The authorities are following their own legal procedures."
The aftermath of these recent raids has been swift and vocal:
• Pro-Hispanic advocates have decried the government's actions, which have broken up families just before Christmas, and members of the Hispanic community are worried about relatives who have been detained and also the children of those arrested.

• People opposed to illegal immigration have insisted the raids were warranted because identity theft, forgery and immigrating to the U.S. illegally are criminal actions that should not be tolerated.

• Eighteen former Swift employees, all of whom are U.S. citizens, have sued the company for $23 million, claiming that the firm conspired to deliberately hire illegal workers to keep wages low. Swift has denied the charge.

• Some groups are questioning why Swift has not had any charges brought against the company, which knew in advance of the raid and tried unsuccessfully to get a federal judge to stop it.

• All six Swift plants are operating, although there was an interval of reduced productivity immediately following the raids. Swift employs about 15,000 workers in the U.S.