The feds say 17 people lined their pockets and cheated taxpayers by hiring undocumented workers.
Many of those workers have now reunited with their families, following raids at several north central Nebraska businesses.
Erika Gonzalez of Grand Island said her sister worked at an O’Neill tomato greenhouse, and was detained and later released.
“Very nervous, very worried, she was very scared but she said everything was about waiting. Waiting and waiting until it was her turn. Everyone was amicable. They were good to them, treated them well, as she said, no one was seen being attacked, just scared waiting to see what was going to happen with her,” Gonzalez said, through an interpreter.
Her family, and others, now navigate the legal system.
“It’s critically important people have access to counsel as soon as possible,” said attorney Dearra Godinez of the Immigrant Legal Center.
Godinez was one of several attorneys who worked through the night. Attorneys say many people without criminal histories were released after being processed by ICE.
In some cases, attorneys say they've run into obstacles.
Godinez said, “We're trying to locate where they're detained now so attorneys can have access to them, so far we've been unsuccessful in getting that information.”
Many gathered at the Grand Island Multicultural Coalition.
Executive Director Audrey Lutz said, “We're here to support you and be here for you during the process and know that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Those in the Latino community and their advocates decry not only family separation, but the employers who allegedly took advantage of them.
“We have profound sadness for those detained. They are victims,” Lutz said.
The federal indictment focuses not on the workers, but those who hired them.
The crackdown has sent shockwaves through immigrant communities.
Lutz said, “Instances like this are what promotes fear in Nebraska.”
Grand Island attorneys stopped in the Multicultural Coalition office Thursday morning, donating their services, while one man left a $100 bill as a donation. The group was also collecting items to support families who may have been separated by the law enforcement operation.