56 people arrested in illegal immigration sweeps | NevadaAppeal.com

56 people arrested in illegal immigration sweeps

Staff and wire reports

Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal A customer attempts to enter the McDonald's on Winnie Lane and Carson Street in Carson City on Wednesday afternoon only to find that it was closed. Federal agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly raided 12 locations in Fernley and Reno, arresting at least 56 workers.

Fifty-six people suspected of being in the country illegally were arrested Thursday morning in a series of raids on McDonald’s fast-food restaurants in Reno and Fernley.

Richard Rocha, spokesman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said 11 McDonald’s restaurants in Fernley and Reno and the company’s corporate office in Reno were the targets of a five-month investigation into allegations of identity theft. He did not elaborate on the investigation.

ICE officers conducted the raids simultaneously at about 10 a.m. Thursday, said Rocha.

He declined to give the names of those workers who were placed under “administrative arrest,” and the location of where they are being held.

“At this point, we are not releasing that information. It may not be releasable,” he said, citing Department of Homeland Security’s privacy policy, which precludes the release of “personally identifiable information found in DHS records.”

Rocha also said he did not have available a list of locations visited, though he did mention restaurants on East Plumb Lane, North McCarran Boulevard, at a Reno Wal-Mart and at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

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A McDonald’s in Fernley was also targeted.

None of the four McDonald’s in Carson City were part of the raid, nor was the McDonald’s in the Wal-Mart at Topsy Lane. However, several Hispanic-owned businesses in Carson City locked up their shops early and the McDonald’s locations at Wal-Mart on Topsy Lane, on North Carson Street and on Winnie Lane were closed. A woman, who did not identify herself, but answered the phone at the Winnie Lane location, said the business closed in anticipation of a raid.

The raids in Reno drew immediate criticism from Mayor Bob Cashell and local Hispanic leaders, who estimated the number of arrests to be closer to 100.

“There’s got to be a better way to handle this than coming in doing this,” Cashell said.

Cashell made his comments in front of the federal courthouse where local Hispanic leaders and members of the American Civil Liberties Union had called a news conference late in the day to criticize the arrests.

“We don’t approve of the Gestapo methods ICE is using,” said Gilbert Cortez, a Latino leader who was urging Hispanic workers to stay home from their jobs in protest today.

“ICE raids are unproductive because they lock up individuals with no criminal history and warehouse them in detention centers,” added Lee Rowland, northern coordinator of the ACLU of Nevada.

Vito De La Cruz, a federal public defender, said the workers arrested “have civil rights regardless of whether they are undocumented or not.”

“I don’t know in this particular instance, but I think as a general rule, to terrorize a community is a way of violating somebody’s civil rights,” he said.

Cashell, a Republican and former lieutenant governor, said he opposed a protest that would keep workers at home today.

“I’ve already got casinos that are walking out. People are leaving, going home and that’s not right,” he said Thursday evening. He had no information on the extent of walkouts.

Members of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also condemned any boycott of jobs.

“If this continues over the next two or three days, it will just kill us here in the community,” Cashell said. “This would stymie the whole community.”

Rocha declined to identify the franchise owner or owners. Details about the investigation are sealed in federal court documents, he said.

“We need to know who is being detained. We should have access to that information,” said Ireri Rivas, an organizer for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a grassroots group whose mission is to create “greater social justice” and “create more humane solutions to Nevada’s problems.”

Rivas said some school-aged children may have not had their parents to pick them up because the parents had been taken into federal custody.

“This is what we’ve feared all along from the politically driven enforcement threats,” Bob Fulkerson, PLAN executive director, said in a news release. “Innocent children are suffering as a result of these raids.”

Rocha said those people detained would be questioned by investigators and were allowed to call their families to tell them of their arrests. He said once they are processed, they will be moved to local detentions facilities where they will remain in custody until a “removal hearing,” to determine if they are in the country illegally.

A spokeswoman for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp. said she had no immediate details but that the company would issue a statement.

Luther Mack, a longtime Reno businessman and former member of the state athletic commission that regulates boxing in Nevada, owns at least some of the McDonald’s that were raided.

“As an employer, I do not knowingly hire or employ undocumented or unauthorized workers,” Mack said in a statement.

“Our current job application process and employee verification record both requires all individuals seeking or accepting employment to … provide appropriate documentation,” he said.

ICE spokesman Rocha said officers hit all of their intended targets on Thursday.