[Stop-traffic] News/US: Meatpacker's managers arrested in INS raid

New Message Reply Date view Thread view Subject view Author view Other groups

Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Meatpacker's managers arrested in INS raid
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Jan 01 2001 - 18:38:59 EST


Meatpacker's managers arrested in INS raid
By Cindy Gonzalez
The Omaha World-herald, December 6, 2000

In an unprecedented case in Nebraska, federal officials have reached
into
the upper levels of an Omaha meatpacking company to arrest managers
suspected of helping to smuggle undocumented workers into the state.

Those charged in a criminal warrant include the vice president of human
resources, the personnel manager and the production manager of Nebraska
Beef near 35th and L Streets.

Three others charged in the alleged conspiracy were described as
recruiters. Two are based in Texas, and the other lives in Omaha.

All six are alleged to have participated in a scheme to transport
undocumented workers from Texas and Mexico, to arrange temporary housing
and to point them toward fake work documents.

Although officials from other companies have been fined administratively
for hiring undocumented workers, federal agents said at a press
conference
Tuesday that the case is unique in that managers allegedly helped
smuggle
the workers here and are to be prosecuted criminally.

"Now we have agents of a company who used their role for whatever gain,"
said Art Moreno, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization
Service.

The company itself has not been charged.

Officials of Nebraska Beef did not return messages left at the plant
Tuesday.

Mike Wellman, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, which will
prosecute the six, said the case marked the first time he knows of that
federal agents have gone "as high up the ladder" in Nebraska with
criminal
charges.

"We haven't seen this type of scheme before," Wellman said, "not on this
level."

Such cases have been prosecuted elsewhere in the nation but not in
Nebraska
or Iowa, said Alonzo Martinez, a local INS official working on the
investigation dubbed "Operation Putnam."

Wellman declined to say whether other arrests might be forthcoming. He
said
similar investigations are under way in the state, but he would not
provide
details.

The three managers and the three recruiters named as defendants in the
federal criminal complaint were identified as: Mario Villareal-Carrillo,
32, vice president of human resources; Julian Martinez, 61, personnel
manager; Tony N. Joy, 38, production manager; Jose De Jesus
Quezada-Neri,
39, of El Paso, Texas; Angelica Quezada, age unknown, of El Paso;
Dionicio
Labra, 44, of Omaha.

A federal affidavit signed by a special agent of the INS said that
Quezada-Neri is a recruiter in Texas for Nebraska Beef and that he was
assisted in his role by Angelina Quezada, believed to be his wife, and
by
Labra.

All six were officially charged with being part of a conspiracy to
knowingly bring undocumented Mexican citizens from Texas to work in
Omaha.
If convicted, each faces 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 or
both.

Villareal-Carrillo, Labra and Martinez were arrested Tuesday and are to
appear today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Jaudzemis.

The Quezadas, who live in Texas, and Joy, who was away from his home in
Oakland, Iowa, were expected to be in custody soon.

Also Tuesday, 191 lower-level workers at Nebraska Beef were detained
during
a raid at the plant. They were not charged in the criminal warrant, but
they are suspected of working without proper documentation and face
administrative proceedings to remove them from the United States.

Investigators were trying to determine Tuesday how many of those workers
-
which included about 25 women and seven minors - might have been lured
to
the plant in the alleged smuggling operation, said Jerry Heinauer,
director
of the INS in Omaha.

He said the INS would begin returning the 191, who are mostly Mexican
nationals, to their native country as early as today.

About 9 a.m. Tuesday, more than 100 federal agents from the INS, the
Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Marshal Service and the Omaha Police
Department helped seal off all entrances to the plant and helped patrol
the
surroundings while workers were asked to produce documentation that they
were in the country legally.

"They left meat and everything on the lines," said Ed Reyes, one of the
workers who was allowed to leave after showing identification. "I think
it's wrong."

The raid signaled a resurrection of the type of raids that had been on
hold
for the past few years. Those military-style raids had been largely
suspended in the Midlands because the INS had turned to a program that
used
the power of subpoena to examine employee documents. While less
intrusive,
that program, Operation Vanguard, drew intense criticism.

On Tuesday, Reyes and other workers lingered outside in the cold while
co-workers in white hard hats peered down at the commotion from a
second-floor cafeteria.

By late morning, a Good Life Transportation Inc. bus had taken the first
load of suspected undocumented workers to the Army Reserve Training
Center
in Council Bluffs, where they were to be detained. Three other buses
were
waiting in the parking lot.

Moreno said the workers would be allowed to contact family members. If
the
workers cannot produce proper documentation, Moreno said, the government
will begin proceedings to remove them from the country.

Reyes and others said the raid caught them by surprise.

"They rustled everybody into the cafeteria," Reyes said. "They asked for
IDs and started getting them one by one. They've got people up there
handcuffed."

Rocky Speed, another employee, said some tried to run. "I don't know how
far they got."

Moreno said that he knew of no one who ran from the plant or of anyone
who
was injured.

Robert Rogers said he had just pulled his "gut truck" onto the premises
when an agent told him to park it. "They said no one can come in or
out."

After he explained that the cattle parts would freeze if he did not
transport them to their destination, Rogers was allowed to continue. He
said he was never asked to produce identification.

"They didn't ask me," said Rogers, who is black and has worked for the
company for about two months. "I guess maybe because I don't look
Mexican.
I don't know. But I thought that was kind of strange."

Moreno said Tuesday's raid was the culmination of a yearlong
investigation
and of information that the INS had received that Nebraska Beef was
employing undocumented workers.

Moreno said that while work-site raids had been at least temporarily
curtailed in the state, they had not been completely abolished. He said
it
is against federal immigration law to work in the country with false
documentation.

The last major raid of an Omaha meatpacking plant, according to
World-Herald records, appears to have been in the summer of 1997 at
Greater
Omaha Packing Co.

Similar raids were suspended while the INS implemented "Operation Prime
Beef," a program in which the INS subpoenaed employee records.

Operation Prime Beef evolved into Operation Vanguard. The program relied
on
detailed examination of employee records.

Under the program, about 20percent of the work force at the meatpacking
plants investigated were found to have discrepancies in their paperwork.
That translated into 4,762 employees. Those workers were notified that
they
were to be interviewed. Many left the plants before the INS conducted
the
interviews.

The operation found that 21 percent of the Nebraska Beef's work force
had
"questionable" employment records. About 345 employees of 1,626 who were
checked had red flags such as a false Social Security number or the
wrong
Social Security number.

Vanguard had been highly criticized by the workers, plants, the Latino
community and Nebraska's congressional delegation. They said the program
had depleted the work force at packing plants, had depressed prices for
livestock and had increased demand for subsistence benefits from such
places as food pantries and emergency shelters.

Operation Vanguard was suspended in the summer of 1999 after the Social
Security Administration objected to the use of Social Security numbers.

Nebraska Beef Operating Co. began processing meat in the plant in the
fall
of 1995 in a building formerly occupied by Union Packing Co.

Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
__________________
LIST PURPOSE

Stop-Traffic is an open, facilitated, international electronic list
funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative of the Program
for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) that addresses human
rights abuses associated with trafficking in persons, with a strong
emphasis on public health. The focus of Stop-Traffic is the
trafficking in persons into sweatshop labor, domestic servitude,
forced prostitution, forced agricultural labor and coercive
mail-order bride arrangements. Trafficking in people for forced
labor is an ever-growing worldwide phenomena that affects the health
and well-being of millions of women, men and children.
_________________
To subscribe and unsubscribe, please go to

http://fpmail.friends-partners.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/stop-traffic

_________________
Stop-Traffic archive:
http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/stop-traffic/1999/

http://fpmail.friends-partners.org/pipermail/stop-traffic/
_________________

_______________________________________________
Stop-traffic mailing list
Stop-traffic@friends-partners.org
http://fpmail.friends-partners.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/stop-traffic


New Message Reply Date view Thread view Subject view Author view Other groups

This archive was generated by hypermail 2a22 : Mon Jan 01 2001 - 18:47:45 EST