O'NEILL, Neb. -- Dozens of people have unloaded from Homeland Security buses at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Grand Island after federal agents arrested 133 immigrant workers and 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.
NTV's Steve White estimates a total of between 40 to 50 people came out of two buses early Wednesday afternoon in Grand Island.
He said that about 20 people got off of the first bus that arrived on scene.
In addition to the 17 arrest warrants, authorities also served search warrants for worksite hiring violations at agricultural firms in Nebraska and Minnesota, and federal document search warrants at locations throughout Nebraska, in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; Appleton, Minnesota; and Las Vegas, Nevada. During the investigation, authorities identified employees who were subject to arrest for immigration violations and were unlawfully working at these businesses. These individuals have been illegally residing and working in the United States; they may also have been exploited as part of this alleged criminal conspiracy. During the execution of these search warrants on Wednesday, 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.
Search warrants were served at the following businesses and locations:
The enforcement action is part of a 15-month, ongoing HSI investigation based on evidence that these companies allegedly knowingly hired illegal aliens at their facilities, and that many of these aliens are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.
“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.”
The following individuals were listed in the indictment. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are not yet in custody follow the Aug. 8 criminal arrests.
ORIGINAL: Immigration and Customs Enforcement has confirmed a “law enforcement operation” is happening at a plant near O’Neill.
The Nebraska State Patrol said they are assisting, but wouldn't release any other details.
NTV asked about a possible operation in Grand Island. Officials responded by saying that would be part of information released later in the day Wednesday.
G.I.’s JBS plant was the site of a major immigration raid in 2006.
NTV reporters observed a tent set up behind 703 South Webb Road Wednesday, as well as a large truck and vehicles that said Homeland Security.
According to Hall County Assessor records, a building permit was issued for the address in January for "interior finish for Immigration & Customs Enforcement/tenant finish for USDA."
The Nebraska ACLU issued the following statement in regards to the "immigration raids in the area of O'Neill":
The HSI-led enforcement action was coordinated with federal, state and local counterparts including the following agencies: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska; ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol, CBP Air and Marine Operations; and the following Nebraska law enforcement agencies: Holt County Sheriff’s Office, O’Neill Police Department and Nebraska State Patrol.
In the context of any enforcement action, ICE utilizes prosecutorial discretion on cases involving humanitarian concerns, such as health or family considerations. Accordingly, during the enforcement action Wednesday, several individuals were processed and released from custody the same day on humanitarian grounds.
The illegal aliens who remain in ICE custody after being administratively arrested on immigration violations will be transported to a nearby processing facility and placed in removal proceedings. Detained aliens will be held in facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota while awaiting removal proceedings.