Anthony Cave / KERA
Update 22:12 E.T.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 280 employees of a technology repair company in Collin County, Texas, accused of working in the United States illegally. It's been the country's largest construction raid for more than a decade, according to a Homeland Security Investigations official.
The ICE Homeland Security Investigations Division has been informed that the company – CVE Technology Group – may have deliberately hired undocumented migrants and that many workers were using fraudulent identity documents, said Katrina Berger, a special agent at the HSI office. in Dallas.
The hiring irregularities noted during an audit of the company's I-9 forms confirmed these tips. CVE has not responded to requests for media comment.
Under federal hiring laws, employers must recruit new employees to complete the I-9 forms. The laws fulfill "necessary functions and common sense," Berger said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
"They are ensuring US citizens and legal residents of the United States are hired for jobs in the United States," Berger said. "They shall also ensure that clandestine workers are not preyed or paid less than the wages in force or under duress, cheated or subjected to unsafe working conditions, without any means of complaint."
Companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers "create an atmosphere conducive to the exploitation of an illegal labor force," Berger said.
Yessenia Ponce, a CVE employee, was inside the building when the agents arrived.
"Dude, that was crazy," she says. "We were working like a normal day … We just heard screaming, you know, people screaming and so on, we went out and an officer just said," follow my voice, follow my voice "."
Over the last year, North Texas has been the scene of the two largest workplace raids on a single site in the United States over the last decade.
Before Allen's Wednesday raid, 159 undocumented workers were arrested in the small town of Sumner, northeastern Texas, at a trailer manufacturer.
The largest-ever raid on the workplace in the United States took place in Postville, Iowa, in May 2008, when nearly 400 undocumented workers were arrested.
What's next for the arrested employees
Workers arrested on Wednesday will first be interviewed by ICE, who will note "humanitarian situations" such as medical needs, or if a worker is the sole guardian of someone else. , such as a child.
On the basis of these interviews, ICE will decide who remains in immediate detention and who can be taken into consideration for a temporary humanitarian release.
In one case as in the other, ICE said in a statement that "in all cases, all illegal aliens encountered will receive fingerprints and will be processed for removal from the United States".
Families are waiting outside during the raid
Late Wednesday morning, the repair plant workers started sending SMS messages and calling the family members, who arrived outside the building and waited for information. One of them received a message from his wife, who asked him to call a lawyer.
Maria Soria waited in front of the repair plant, in tears. His mother, Socorro Lechuga, 46, is employed there and was eventually released by ICE agents.
Soria, 24, said her mother had already asked for legalization before the raid. Lechuga is from Guerrero, Mexico.
Stella M. Chavez / KERA
Around 10 am, Soria received a voice message from her mother telling her that ICE agents had arrived at the company and that she "did not know what was going to happen."
"I was worried at first, because you hear 'ICE' and that everything is going well," Soria said. "I ended up" and left work at a health insurance company to go to Allen's.
She called her mother's lawyer, who told her not to worry because, he said, "they will release her or make her a commitment to do so within 48 hours" and that They "can not do anything to him, pretty much." because she has a petition in place. "
"So, that reassured me, at least I know my mom will be fine," Soria said. "As a person here, I really do not know their status or their situation, so it's a whole different story."
During the raid
Mathew Varughese, who says repairing cell phones at CVE, described the scene inside the company. He said that around 10 am, officers arrived and some employees started running. The agents asked the workers to regroup by legal status.
Employees who work in the company with legal immigration papers have received a green bracelet.
At that time, employees' reactions were mixed: "Stand up, do not talk. The women cry, "he said.
According to him, about 60% of CVE Technology employees are women.
A woman was in the building to apply for a job just as ICE agents arrived. She says that there were hundreds of people inside.
Buses, at least one of which, says LaSalle Corrections Transport, left CVE a few hours after the start of the raid, presumably with workers in the interior. Some protesters shouted at one of the buses: "We see you, we love you."
Third largest employer in Allen
According to the Allen Economic Development Corporation's website, CVE employs 2,100 people, making it the third largest employer in the city.
CVE already had an office in Plano when their head office moved from New Jersey to Allen in 2014. The company was founded by Howard Cho in 1986 and is now headed by his son Edward Cho.
In 2014, Samsung represented 75% of the company's business, but CVE planned to reduce it significantly as it expanded, according to North Jersey Media Group.
The company was honored in 2017 by the US Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency with a national award.
KERA solicited feedback from CVE Technology.
Christy Robinson from KERA contributed to this report.