Foreword: What in hell's going on in the Utah Valley? Two businesses outsource jobs to India and Mexico, and now another business gave half its jobs to illegals. What happened to patriotism?
Fifty workers at a Utah County metal factory were arrested this morning during a surprise immigration raid. That comprises half of the employees at Universal Industrial Sales (pictured at left) in Lindon, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which today released previously sealed indictments charging the company and its human resource manager with harboring illegal aliens. Full stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret Morning News, the Provo Daily Herald, and KSL Channel 5.
About 100 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up unannounced at the company's warehouses about 8 A.M. and began arresting workers, said ICE spokesman Tim Counts. By 11 A.M., agents had arrested 50 people, who were then transported by van to the Provo ICE office to be processed. But Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Utah, said there were no arrest warrants issued for the workers and none were booked into jail, though they were to receive orders to appear at hearings in front of a federal immigration judge. However, the Provo Daily Herald reports differently - according to them, ICE spokesman Greg Palmore said, "After they go through the administrative processing, they will be placed in Utah County and Weber County Jails until they are removed from the U.S. or appear before an immigration judge in Salt Lake to plead their case".
Relatives drove around the company's building and stopped to ask officials questions about the people they knew who might have been arrested. One man said he started getting phone calls about 8 A.M. from friends who worked at Universal and said an immigration raid was happening.
ICE agents also contacted the Utah Health and Human Rights Project and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services to help take care of children who may be left home alone following the raid.
In the first indictment, the company is charged with 10 counts of harboring aliens between January 2003 to December 2006 for "commercial advantage." The company faces $500,000 in fines, or twice the amount of any pecuniary gains, for each count. In this case, we're talking a possible $5 million fine. Ouch - that's got teeth!
In the second indictment, 39-year-old Alejandro Alex Urrutia-Garcia of Provo is charged with two counts of encouraging illegal aliens to remain in the United States unlawfully. Urrutia-Garcia is a naturalized U.S. citizen and the human resource director for Universal Industrial Sales. The charges carry up to 10 years in federal prison per count if he is convicted. Since this story first broke, Urrutia-Garcia has pleaded not guilty to both counts. A four-day trial is tentatively scheduled to being on April 14th.
It should also be noted that the OJJPAC website lists Provo as a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.
Universal Industrial Sales, housed in a large red building, sits in an industrial area amid open fields in Lindon, a small town located between Pleasant Grove and Orem. The company produces metal highway signs and guard rails. Company officials are cooperating with the investigation. Managers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Anyone wanting information on Universal Industrial Sales workers who may be affected is asked to call an ICE hotline: 1-866-341-3858. A community meeting for relatives of those arrested in the raid is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at St. Francis Catholic Church in Orem, 65 East 500 North.
Click HERE for a list of other significant workplace raids by ICE agents. A story published in the Daily Report Online reveals some important trends:
• The number of illegal immigrants arrested in the workplace has skyrocketed in recent years, from 485 in 2002 to more than 4,000 in 2007.
• Workplace raids are triggering more suits against employers, the most notable one involving a $23 million lawsuit pending against the Colorado-based Swift & Co. meatpacking firm, accused by 18 former employees of conspiring to keep wages down by hiring illegal immigrants. Valenzuela v. Swift Beef Co., No. 3:06-CV-2322-N (N.D. Texas).
• A growing number of executives and managers are facing criminal charges, forfeitures and jail time for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, including two executives who agreed to forfeit $4.7 million after pleading guilty in 2006 to hiring illegal immigrants to build fences at military bases in California. USA v. Fenceworks Inc., No. 06cr2604 (S.D. Calif.).