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Immigration raid in Baltimore targets temp agency; 69 arrested

March 30, 2007|From the Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Immigration agents arrested 69 people Thursday in raids on a temporary-employment agency's offices and places where it provided illegal immigrants as workers, including the port of Baltimore, authorities said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents also seized a bank account containing more than $600,000 from the company, Jones Industrial Network.

The company's offices and eight other businesses were searched, including three where the temp agency was suspected of providing workers who were illegal immigrants, ICE said.

The investigation began last year after immigration officials learned that temp agencies had provided illegal immigrants as workers to the port and other unwitting employers, ICE said.

Having "illegal aliens working and having access to our ports is a major security vulnerability," said James Dinkins, ICE special agent in charge.

A call seeking comment from the company was not immediately returned Thursday. The employment agency's offices downtown were closed Thursday, with a sign in English and Spanish saying the company would not be open.

Family members of those detained gathered with activists outside the company's offices, carrying signs that read "Stop Dividing Our Families," "Stop the Raids," and "Fair Immigration Reform Now."

Daysi Lopez, 24, said a school called her house because her 7-year-old brother hadn't been picked up. Their mother had been arrested.

Jesenia Lazo held her sister-in-law's baby, David Lazo, who had not been breast-fed since his mother was arrested.

"The child was born here. He is only 4 months old," Lazo said in Spanish. "We are asking the people from Immigration to please return them."

Lazo said her three sisters-in-law worked at sportswear maker Under Armour Inc.

Authorities did not release the identities of those arrested but said Jones managers were not arrested or charged. ICE officials said the investigation continuing.

Jones is the only company that has been targeted criminally, ICE officials said.

A lawyer for Under Armour, which also was raided, said the Baltimore company was not aware that employees were illegal immigrants.

The company has cooperated fully and is considering legal action against the temp agency, said its general counsel, Kevin M. Haley.

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