In what's being called the largest operation at a single site in Northern Nevada, 63 employees of a Carson City manufacturer were arrested Tuesday morning for being in the United States illegally.
Immigrations and Naturalization Services converged on Stonewear Inc., in the 2000 block of Lockheed Way, at 8:30 a.m.
With the assistance of the Carson City Sheriff's Department, FBI, U.S. Customs, Nevada Division of Investigation and the Nevada Highway Patrol, immigration agents secured two buildings which house the stone fabrication factory, said Gregory White, supervisory special agent of the investigation division of INS.
All but four of the people arrested during the sweep are Mexican nationals who live in Carson City and Dayton, White said.
They were charged with various administrative violations such as illegal entry of and reentry of the country unlawfully.
White said initially 73 people were detained, but the employer showed passports for 10 of them.
The remaining 63 were taken to the Washoe County Jail, where they are being held pending their deportation.
"A large percentage of them will be removed from the country through what we call voluntary return," White explained. "If they have no criminal history they have a right to a hearing. If a person has been deported before or if they are an aggravated felon or a serious offender they have no right to a hearing."
He said detainees are allowed to make a phone call and can speak with the Mexican consulate. In this instance, some did both, he said.
"We treat them with the utmost respect," White said, sympathizing that those in custody probably find the whole experience frightening and stressful.
"But we have laws in this country and that's the risk they have to take," he said.
White said the business was not cited, but he doesn't know if there will be any charges brought against it by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The 63 people arrested made up about 60 percent of the factory's workforce, White said.
Stonewear Inc. President Ben Vaden-Bossche was unavailable for comment.
The company fabricates stone from glass-fiber reinforced concrete, which it uses to make architectural columns, planters, barricades and fountains, among other landscaping items.