Federal indictments were issued yesterday in connection with theJune raid
of Action Rags, USA, a clothing export factory. About 200 agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement participated in the raid, which resulted in the arrest of 160 illegal immigrants.
The owner of the company and two office workers were named in the indictment. All three are charged with conspiracy and "Encouraging Illegal Aliens to Reside in the United States For Commercial Advantage," according to the indictment.
Paul Nugent, defense attorney for office worker Valerie Rodriguez, plans to fight the charge, because, he says, Rodriguez was not involved with hiring the workers. Nugent expects Rodriguez, who is a legal resident, to go to trial this fall.
"This is a big election year issue; we're building a Berlin Wall along the Texas border," Nugent says. "Whether you're a mom-and-pop store [or] a private individual who has someone who mows your lawn, you're subject to prosecution if the government decides to come after you."
The method of the investigation and raid will also be questioned in the trial, Nugent says, particularly agents who paid workers cash for evidence.
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"You can get an informant to say anything for $10,000 cash," Nugent says. "Ten thousand dollars tax-free cash, to a laborer from Mexico, is a lot of money. It might tempt that person to say what the agent wants them to say."
Greg Palmore, the Houston spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says the agency plans to go after more business owners who employ illegal aliens. He says the raid was not politically motivated, and argued that paying for evidence does not cancel the crime
"Every legitimate investigation that transpires uses informants," Palmore says. "Those individuals are actually doing work for legitimate law enforcement agencies. You can't expect them to do it for free."
-- Paul Knight